One thing I've noticed about teaching a range of grades is that every time I move on to a new unit, covering a 'new' piece of literature in my students' eyes, I find myself rediscovering that piece. I may, at times, experience a bit of burn out at a pending unit, but once I dive in, I find a renewed love, a refreshed vigor, for each piece of literature I teach.
Today, two things occurred that validated what I and my co-workers do. Both involved the Bard. And looking back on the day, I cannot but celebrate the fact that, at some level, be it cellular or merely surface, we ARE making an impact on our future, and it would be nice if society noticed.
The first occurrence was in my first block class of the day. I have juniors on odd days of the month, and in our school system, juniors focus on American Literature, which means there is no Shakespeare in the curriculum.
We were in quite a jolly mood this morning. Everyone was working, it wasn't a Monday, just an overall good start to the day. A student was joking with me about getting his work in on time. I told him to settle down and do his seatwork or I'd have to hand him some consequences. Again, jokingly. Something along the line of "Quiet down and do your work or I'll punish you."
To which he replied, "And I'll bite my thumb at you!"
I was floored.
If it weren't for the fact that he remembered that line from...who can tell me? Come on, don't be shy!! - then I would have scolded him for what that line actually means. But I was so caught off guard and absolutely tickled that two years after reading the piece he could quote Samson and Gregory. A divine moment in education.
The second instance where William made his presence known was in my freshmen class. We are in medias res of Romeo and Juliet. Rafe gave me a flier at the beginning of the year that explains the premise behind the movie Letters to Juliet. I held on to it and a pre-stamped letter addressed to the Club di Giulietta, and as my student teacher and I planned out the unit, we decided we'd have the freshmen write letters that we would mail. To apply the assignment even more to the SOLs, we printed off directions for folding a piece of paper into an envelope. The students folded their envelopes, decorated them, and inserted their letters before handing in the assignment.
We got our first section of letters in yesterday. As the day was rather long, Erinn and I decided to relax a bit after school and read through "a few" of the letters, which means, get so caught up on reading them that we read the entire class's submission. We needed to read them all, anyway, to verify the assignment guidelines and appropriateness, but my goodness. Unbelievable. For 14 and 15 year olds, these were surprisingly deep and heart-felt. A few brought us both to tears. It proves just how much kids are willing to say if you give them a venue to say it.
I should also say that my student teacher received a little flak at her class meeting for the assignment. A fellow teacher claimed this was ruining the beauty of Shakespeare and dumbing it down. One of the last letters we read for the day stated, at the end, "I am so glad my English teachers told me about this program." If nothing else, even if everyone in the class except this one child wrote off the assignment, having one student verbally appreciate the opportunity was redemption enough for me.