Current/Recent Reading List

12 November 2007

This and That and The Tempest

I'm in what should be a relatively blissful time of the school year. For one, no jury duty call has materialized yet, and with only seven more days of eligibility left, the odds are in my favor (I call again tomorrow evening) At school, we have a four-day week this week, followed by a two-day Thanksgiving week, so students and teachers alike should be better rested and full of the milk of human kindness, right?

Uh, doubt it. I detect more than one serpent in the garden right now, particularly because in my experience the next six weeks or so bring with them much apathy, recalcitrance, and grumpiness. "Hey, Mister - Target's running Christmas commercials and you expect us to pay attention and do our work? Who do you think you are?"

Well, to paraphrase one of the minor, but vicious, outlaws in Lonesome Dove, "Mr. P's feelin' bloody today, ain't he?" And I am indeed. For once I believe I am well organized and already prepared for the next few weeks to come, which means stocking will be filled with lots of quizzes, tests, and essays until December 21st. Of course, I have to grade all this, but I'm undaunted, for now. When it's Thanksgiving Day and I need to grade my appointed five essays for the day and feel absolutely no motivation to do so other than the fact that there are 30 more where these came from, I'll be reminded of the folly of such big talk. And like Prospero in The Tempest, perhaps I'll take pity on the kiddies after I consider the suffering I'm orchestrating and directing upon them.

Actually, no chance of that, but I needed a segue, so work with me, please.

We began The Tempest in first period last week, and rather than try to give a ten minute lecture on the mental preparations I would like the class to make, which no doubt would have been ignored by most of them, I wrote them a letter, with the instructions to read it once in class on Friday (most did), and once more at home before we return on Tuesday. Here are a couple of excerpts:

In preparation for our study of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, there are a couple of things I would like you to think about. Remember at the beginning of the year I mentioned that all forms of art, and specifically literature, invite us to enter, through our imaginations, another world, where we start to identify with the characters there. As we do this, we begin to judge their thoughts or actions. By doing so, we are also holding up a mirror to ourselves, as we measure ourselves against them. We ask the question, “How would someone judge my thoughts and actions in a given situation?” Through this process, we are really judging ourselves (whether we realize it or not). In this way, experiencing (and struggling with!) art helps us to have a higher vision of life...

...Most of all, have fun with this play. There are many funny scenes and characters, and many interesting questions to ponder. It is one of the last plays Shakespeare wrote, and though it ends happily, it does so only after we see human beings in their worst possible light. But the key is, it does end happily, which tells us quite a bit about what Shakespeare was trying to communicate to us.

Hugs and Kisses,

Mr. P.


JP said...

Did you really sign it Hugs and Kisses?

And - I really really really wish you had been my Lit teacher - at any grade level.

School Master P said...

I did sign it that way, but they also know my dry humor by now. Earlier in the year it wouldn't have worked, but they laughed (well, those who read it did).

Thanks for the compliment, btw.

Belle said...

You could sign it like Nacho Libre:

Hug, hug, Big hug, little kiss, kiss kiss, Big kiss, little hug.

WTG on bringing some relevance in Shakespeare to the kids!

School Master P said...

Most of them seem to be engaged thus far, though it's slow going. But at least I'm getting my Shakespeare fix for the semester. That is the dirty secret to my classroom - if Mr. P. ain't engaged, ain't nobody engaged.