Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Dread of Something

My Advanced Drama classes and I decided to memorize some of the big Shakespeare speeches lately. We already had "Romeo, Romeo" and "Two households" down pat, so I pulled out "All the world's" and, of course, "To be, or not to be".

It's been fun. The kids dove into the dictionary work willingly enough (I tested my new theory that kids will try anything that is referred to as a "game". While reluctantly giving in and writing down the ninth definition of a word, one kid grumbled, "Waterhouse, this feels more like dictionary work than a dictionary game!" I just laughed to myself and walked on.), and they came up with some fantastic moves for gesturing the lines. They like doing the poems, and they're proud of what they're memorizing.

There is a little shadow of worry in my mind, though. One of my girls, Valerie, her older sister committed suicide last year. I checked with her when we started it to see if she would be okay with playing with a poem about suicide. She said she's "totally fine with it".

Still. Every time we do it, every time we do a line where the students assigned a gesture of stabbing yourself, I either furtively look at Valerie or deliberatly try not to look at Valerie to see if she's okay.

There's really nothing big to report - she does seem fine with it. But I wonder what you, my fellow teachers, think about/do for the kids for whom the tragedies are all too realistic?


At 6:41 PM, Blogger educat said...

I always think it's best to err on the side of caution where emotions like this are concerned. However, I've also been pleasantly surprised to find that kids can roll with the punches. You did the right thing, continue to watch her.

I've seen Katrina evacuees read Black Like Me (set mostly in NOLA) and Thier Eyes Were Watching God (where a hurricane plays a major role) and handle it beatifully. We laugh all the time at my friend downt the hall that fretted over explaining the meaning of "Davy Jones' Locker" the day after one of our kids drowned at school.

The bigger part, I think, is the classroom climate I know you've already created. In a Green World, it's safe to explore and feel those emotions. I shared more deaths with you people than I thought I could and took comfort in watching them. I must have read Hamlet thirty times in the last year and took refuge in watching Hamlet plow through the darkness I was experiencing.

Watch her, but let it happen. The humanities are what make us human.

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Meg O'C said...

I agree with Jen's eloquent, spot-on response.

In a safe climate where you are neither hiding the fact of death and violence nor placing undue spotlight on this girl, you are giving her the control she needs so she can choose the extent to which she's ready to let the material in. I think it's important that you checked in with her first. I'd personally stay away from any other suicide-themed work (i.e. not give out "there is a willow that grows aslant a brook" to anyone in her class when you hand out individual monologues) but I don't imagine you were headed there anyway. And forgive me for quoting Kevin, but "there's too much violence in Shakespeare because there is too much violence in our lives." Your eye is on this girl and your heart is with her. This is an important experience for her.

At 11:07 PM, Blogger educat said...

So I checked that little box in the comments that allows comments to this post to be sent to my mailbox. Meg's comment came to my inbox today at work right in the middle of State testing.

I misted up. I remembered Meg. I remembered Ariana in basics doing "There is a willow that grows aslant a brook". I heard Kevin talk about the violence in Shakespeare.

And I took a lap around my room, watching children bubble tests. I gave a kid a sharpened pencil and smiled at a kid who had a question I couldn't answer.

And I went to my shelf and picked up Hamlet. I am sure the monitor wondered what I was doing. I read, almost prayerfully, “I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, forgone all custome of exercise...".

I held the book to my chest a bit and took in the thought of you in my classroom right then. I probably looked like I was praying and honestly, I probably was.

I marked the passage, put the book on the shelf, and took another lap around the room looking at the bubbles. As I took the lap this time, I heard "Love and Mercy" in my head.

And I loved you all the rest of the day.


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