No, that’s not a Winter’s Tale reference. That’s a Harry Potter reference. Psych. 🙂
So once again my oldest has an actual Shakespeare class, and once again it’s not really living up to what we’d hoped.
They’ve started The Tempest. Here’s my daughter’s (roughly paraphrased) summary of the first day:
We did Act One, Scene one. It’s frustrating, because she asked us no questions. Zero. I’m sitting there, waiting for this, I know the answers. I’m dying to say Sycorax, I love that name. But she didn’t interact with us, she just told us what happens.
That makes me sad. I once wrote an entire blog post about that scene, and how awesome the boatswain is. So let’s talk about the situation this teacher finds herself in.
I’m sure that teacher has to assume that there’s zero amount of Shakespeare knowledge in that class. It would be a waste of time for her in most classes to ask a question like, “Is anybody familiar with The Tempest?” because 9 times out of 10 she’s going to get blank stares and silence. So why bother?
Because in this instance she would have gotten an answer. My daughter’s hand would go up. As it would with every question (hence the Hermione reference). She could assistant teach that class.
She’s not trying to be a teacher’s pet. On the contrary, she’s generally an introvert who will avoid answering questions because she feels that for her to answer it is to not give others a chance. But to not even have the question asked? That seems like an opportunity missed. It would not be a lie to say that she’s been waiting years for opportunities like that.
Maybe the teacher knows that. She’s well aware of my daughter’s experience with Shakespeare already. I know because I’ve also had that conversation with her. So I figure one of two things must be going through her head:
a) she’s completely forgotten, or just generally disregarded, the knowledge that she’s actually got someone in class this time that knows the material. She’s got a plan, it does not assume a Hermione in the class, why change the plan?
b) she’s deliberately not singling her out to keep balance in the classroom, and not elevate my daughter into some sort of favorite. Maybe she’s even doing that for what she believes will be my daughter’s benefit, so that the others don’t see it as a negative (i.e. teacher’s pet syndrome)
My problem is that I see it as the opposite. Let’s pretend for a moment that there’s more than one kid in that class that already knows the material. Or at least would be willing to hazard a guess at some questions. And all of them are afraid to be the first one to raise their hand. Doesn’t it make sense that if you know you’ve got a student who isn’t afraid to raise her hand, and knows the answer, that you should do that? That maybe it would help bring the other kids out of their shells? Maybe there’s kids in that class that would hear my daughter rave about how awesome Shakespeare is, how she’s known about it since she was little, and maybe they switch from “I’ve always heard that this stuff is boring and irrelevant” to “One of my peers is telling me that it’s interesting and not that hard, maybe I should listen to her.”
Teachers, help me out here. I’m trying to read somebody’s mind, and maybe I’m way off. It doesn’t matter the particular material. Say that you’re in the out of the ordinary situation where you know you’ve got at least one student in the class that knows the material ahead of the rest. How do you handle that? Take advantage and try to use that kid to draw out the others? Or treat everybody the same? Why?
(In fairness I should acknowledge that there’s an option (c), namely, that this class is about monsters in British literature and thus they are studying Caliban specifically, not the play as a whole. So, since scene one really has nothing to do with Caliban, she glossed over it. I mean personally I still disagree, because I think that kicking off the story in an exciting way rather than a blah blah blah way is important if you want to keep the kids’ attention, but what can ya do. There are calendar time restrictions, and material to get through.)
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