English Teacher Turns Classroom Into a “Dictatorship” – But the Students Refused to Be Silenced

Inspiring Stories

*This story originally appeared on Diana Leygerman’s Medium.

Diana Leygerman is a high school school teacher with teaching methods that her students are sure to never forget — she’s just going about it in the most unconventional way.

This Pennsylvania teacher turned her classroom into a “dictatorship.”

She wanted to teach her students a lesson, but to her surprise, the students became the teacher instead.

They Were Reading 1984, Then They Were Living It

In her detailed blog post on Medium, Leygerman chronicles one insane school-wide “simulation” that had a surprising outcome.

Every year, Leygerman takes teaching English Lit to a whole new level.

Some of us may be familiar with George Orwell’s classic novel 1984. It’s been taught in the American school system for over 55 years — and in these times of TikTok surveillance and political unrest, it may be more relevant than ever!


In short, 1984 is a book about a society where the government watches and controls everything. Winston, the main character, challenges this control but faces harsh consequences. It explores themes of surveillance and the dangers of too much government power.

But instead of just lecturing her students about oppression, Leygerman did something so much better.

She decided to show them.

“If You See Something Say Something”

yellow posters with a pair of eyes at the center
Diana Leygerman / Medium

“Every year, before I teach 1984 to my seniors, I run a simulation. Under the guise of “the common good,” I turn my classroom into a totalitarian regime; I become a dictator.”

Diana Leygerman, Medium

Leygerman went on to explain exactly how she implements this new regime.

How This Teacher Got Students to Turn On Each Other

When it came to designing the experiment, Leygerman is not leaving any stone unturned.

“I hang posters with motivational quotes and falsified statistics, and provide a false narrative for the problem that is “Senioritis.” I tell the students that in order to help them succeed, I must implement strict classroom rules. They must raise their hand before doing anything at all, even when asking another student for a pencil. They lose points each time they don’t behave as expected. They gain points by reporting other students. If someone breaks the rule and I don’t see it, it is the responsibility of the other students to let me know. Those students earn bonus points. I tell students that in order for this plan to work they must “trust the process and not question their teachers.” This becomes a school-wide effort. The other teachers and admin join.

In the new world order, snitches don’t get “stitches;” they get gold stars and big promotions.

Raising your hand to borrow a pencil?!

She really goes the extra mile to make students feel like they are living in a dictatorship — and her approach could not be more clever!

But that doesn’t mean it was effective.

The Students Started an Uprising!

For the first time ever, Leygerman was thrilled to report this was first Senior Class who were not prepared to “take it lying down.”

Yes, there were the usual suspects who were quick to fall in line — following the rules religiously and reporting other students for breaking them!

But even under “Big Brother’s” watchful eye, a few students began forming a resistance…and then more students joined them.

“By day two of the simulation, the students were contacting members of administration, writing letters, and creating protest posters. They were organizing against me and against the admin. They were stomping the hallways, refusing to do as they were told.”

Diana Leygerman, Medium

It’s safe to say if Leygerman was trying to get her message across? Mission accomplished.

But taking a closer look…it may seem like Ms. Diana Leygerman had a secret mission all along, that we didn’t see coming.

“Senioritis” Didn’t Stand a Chance

If you’re not familiar with the term “senioritis”, the definition is pretty simple (and hilarious).

Basically, the term pokes fun at the declining motivation students suffer in their Senior Year of high school.

But with her creative and immersive approach to teaching, Diana Leygerman did the unthinkable.

She wasn’t just able to get 1984’s message across, but she was also able to pull these students out of their senioritis funk!

When We Have Purpose, We Can Do Anything

Diana Leygerman’s story is an much-needed reminder that we all need purpose in our lives.

No matter what direction our efforts are pointed in — when we are goal setting and working with others? These things have the power to re-energize us more than we know.

When we are engaged with the immediate world around us, it becomes a habit that’s hard to break.

Yes, it starts with us. But the more we move outside of ourselves, the more motivated we are to better the lives of not just those around us — but those we may never even meet!

Leygerman’s Hopeful Message:

“Teenagers are ignited, spirited, and take no prisoners. Do not squander their fight; they really are our future. Do not call them entitled; that entitlement is their drive and their passion. Do not get in their way: they will crush you.

Foster their rebellion. They are our best allies.”

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