The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Friday, January 07, 2005

I'm slowly coming round to the idea that my 'worst' class is also proving to be my most rewarding, in the long run. It seems I blog more about this bottom set facing their first real public examination (in the spirit that looters in the Dark Ages might have faced the Enlightenment) than any other class*.

I'm blown away by how satisfying teaching 'Macbeth' has been, to this class of thirteen / fourteen year olds who have difficulties reading modern English.

So are they. Tommy - so far, the most exacting, difficult student of the previous week's lessons - stops me in the print room to say how surprised he is that the play is fun to study. Fazio and Thali surprise me when they wait at the end of the lesson to ask if I think Lady Macbeth more evil than her husband.
We discuss moral guilt versus actual guilt, and they begin to analyse whether perhaps the witches share the blame, or if Macbeth should be considered master of his own fate.

I worry about just how much blood and gore I add to the play, as I basically teach them the story and the age, rather than wading through the antiquated language as directed (it's a recurring habit: it's gotten to the point where I teach Romeo and Juliet as an example of how gang violence and war can consume a generation, without ever really mentioning the piffling, minor love story coexisting there).

The support teacher, too, stops a moment longer at the end of a lesson: explains that she's never enjoyed supporting Shakespeare lessons before. That - apart from the students' obvious enjoyment of the tale - I'd managed to bring it allive for her in a way she'd never seen before.

Hurrah. Some successes. Not too many. But enough to keep you going.

* For further tales of my Minor Ninth class, see Lennie, Huseyin, James, more James, Thali, and Ashley.