Saturday, January 26, 2013

I Never Thought I Would See the Day

When we got back to school after the long weekend, I began a discussion about the inauguration.  Some of the students were very aware that it was happening, others... well, not so much.  After a discussion about elections and the peaceful transfer of power in the United States, I asked the students what impressed them about the ceremony and the celebrations from Washington DC.  Students commented on the parade, Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson, and how the First Lady and First Daughters were dressed.

One boy raised his hand and when I called on him he said, "I was very proud of the President for saying that Gays and Lesbians should be treated like everyone else".  I held my breath as this has always been a tricky subject with third and fourth graders.  I was waiting for eye rolling, chuckles, negative comments, and uncomfortable reactions, as this has always happened in the past.  As the sister of a gay man who has adopted two beautiful children with his partner, I worry that this situation will come up in the school life of my niece and nephew and they will have to find a way to answer comments that come from unenlightened classmates.  

So as students raised their hands I chose the next child carefully.  He said, "It is important for everyone to find love." No eye rolling, no chuckling, no comments came forth.  I started breathing again.  I added to the discussion by saying that the President said that everyone in our country no matter who we are, who we love, where we come from or what we do, we all make up the community that is the United States.  Each one of us is important and each one has a role to play. 

Obama ran for his first term as President on "HOPE and CHANGE".  I have witnessed it and can testify that there is hope and change has come.

I am so proud of my brother and his family.  I am hopeful that my niece and nephew will have a peaceful, joyful, and academically challenging school experience.  I see our future when I look at these amazing children.

I am also proud of the students in my class and their families.  They are accepting, open minded, and have great big hearts.  I see our future when I look at these amazing children.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Third grade Shakespeare

It always amazes me when parents say, "I can't believe you were able to teach Shakespeare to 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students!"

I just directed my students in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.  The students performed and the audience was delighted.

I have been doing this for close to 20 years.  I am at a new school now, so students did not have a reference point in seeing older siblings and friends perform.

When I introduced the idea to my new group there were mixed reactions.  Many students did not want to participate, or wanted a non-speaking role.  As a director, I spend a lot of my time coaxing, encouraging, cheer leading and convincing the students that they are capable.

Our rehearsals started off slowly with student tripping over the unusual language and sentence patterns.  Some wanted to back out, some said they would never be able to learn the lines, some threatened to absent from the performance.  I cajoled, comforted and listened to each student who had an issue.

After a while, the students started to ask, "Are we going to rehearse today?"  It became the best part of the day for some of these young thespians.

Our show was successful!  Students bravely got up on stage.  Some of them were as bright as the footlights, some of them courageously gave it all they had.  The parents were delighted.

The next day, at school, the students asked if we could rehearse it again.  Every one of them was proud and walking on air for having fun and for doing a good job.

The point is, if you do not learn to love the classics in school, you will never be interested in them.  Shakespeare is not meant to be read.  It is written as a play so it is meant to be performed and enjoyed by an audience.  By the time you have to read these plays in high school, you have to already love it.

Performing builds confidence.  Public speaking continues to be a fearful venture for many.  Performing gives students positive energy around the experience of being in front of an audience.

If my legacy will be that I have started Shakespeare programs at 2 local schools and introduced hundreds of students to the Bard, I will be content.