A Single Step

Yesterday, I took my students to A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in Chicago, Illinois. It was a special trip for them, because they had just finished learning the play a few weeks earlier and they had earned admittance to the trip based on their level of effort, academic risk taking, and development of analysis skills. I'm not big on incentives, but if seeing a Shakespeare production can be used as one, I'm on board.

This was a special trip for me as well because, as you may know if you are a regular reader of this blog, A Midsummer Night's Dream was one of my first real connections to Shakespeare.  Here I am playing one of the fairies in Titania's bower in the sixth grade (see left).

It would appear that I have finally reached the age at which I can now share experiences I had in middle school with current middle schoolers.  I believe this places me into the category my students have entitled, "old," but I don't mind because getting old is a privilege denied to many.  Though I have no interest in having children of my own, I love that I still have so many opportunities to share positive experiences with young people. The fact that I am now experiencing the "full circle" of my Shakespeare experience is supremely satisfying to me.

Of course, passing on learning experiences to the "next generation" always includes some risk. What if they hated it? What if they fell asleep? What if they still didn't "get it?" What if they wiggled and shifted in their seats (thereby unknowingly exposing their disengagement with the play)? What if they decided to fiddle with the noisy plastic wrappers of their contraband hot chips during an important monologue? What if they decided to fold their programs into paper airplanes and challenge themselves to see how far onto the stage they could fly them? What if their phones went off or they decided to Snapchat silly faces in the middle of the play?

It's not lost on me that adults do these things, too.

I took a deep breath as the lights went down and resigned myself to whatever would happen. As usual, my students pleasantly surprised me. They laughed at all the right moments. They gasped or hooted or sighed at all the right moments. They got it! Success! Thank you, actors! Thank you, Shakespeare!  What delighted me the most, though, were the very polite, very quiet whispers I heard. "I want to be her," one girl remarked as Titania took the stage. "That was my part," someone whispered as Puck appeared behind Oberon. "That's bogus," a boy commented as Egeus screamed at his daughter, Hermia. And oh, the laughter when the mechanicals put on Pyramus and Thisbe!

The joy of seeing my students simply enjoying Shakespeare, rather than working so hard to understand him, was remarkable. I knew they were potentially forming many of the same positive associations with Shakespeare that I did when I was their age.  (Did I just say, "When I was their age?" Yeah, that happened.)

I don't know what my students will do with the positive associations they may or may not have formed with Shakespeare. But the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. My journey has led me here to this blog, to my classroom, perhaps to a PhD someday, and to an endless fascination with those immortal words set down by a mysterious writer over 400 years ago. Where my students will go with Shakespeare is up to them. Off they go!

Thanks for reading!

No comments

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top