Friday, May 14, 2010

Leave It To The Bard

I'm reading Romeo and Juliet with my honors 8th grade English class. I see no reason to wait until high school to read Shakespeare with advanced readers.The kids are all very bright, but Shakespeare is tough, it really humbles them. We stop a lot to break down what's being said, what's happening. My questions are often met with averted eyes and the kind of silence that really should be accompanied by crickets. That's what I love about teaching Shakespeare to this age group, it's a challenge, they have to work at it.

Early on the kids really struggle, but by Act IV and V, the light goes on for more kids and more frequently. When I stop to ask questions, there are more hands, so many that certain kids can't take the chance they won't be called on and just shout the answers out. I can literally feel these kids learning how to read Shakespeare. It's the kind of feeling teachers crave, it's our drug.

Every year there are students who get it more than others, and this year is no exception. One student in particular is damn near bringing me to tears. His name is Rene, and two years ago he didn't speak a word of English. When I ask what things mean, Rene does this little half raise of the hand, almost daring me not to notice him. I do, and he's always spot-on. Rene volunteers every time I assign roles, but I notice he's become partial to Friar Laurence. His English is heavily accented, but his voice is firm and loud, I can hear the pride as he reads these ancient lines of English.

As a teacher, it's very easy to be cynical these days, especially in Arizona. Reading Shakespeare with a kid like Rene is what this whole teaching gig is about.

5 comments:

  1. The one year I taught ninth grade (and therefore R & J), I got their attention by cluing them in to all the dirty jokes. And this year I did the same with Othello with my juniors.

    You'd be amazed how much more interested they become.

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  2. Your kids sound good - I taught Macbeth to 12th graders and many of them had enormous problems with it. They preferred Beowulf, acually.

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  3. You are really a great writer Tim

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  4. That is so cool. I know I used to hate teachers like you (who forced us to do such hard work), but looking back I'm glad I had the experiences.

    Oh, and I have tagged you on my blog. It's up to you whether you decide to play along, but I enjoyed it myself. You can find the post here: http://workingmymuse.blogspot.com/2010/05/tagged-by-friend.html

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  5. YES!!

    Just had to get that out. :)

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