Teaching is a compilation of wonderful days and do-overs. I am no longer in the classroom, but I often find myself reflecting on my last year in the classroom with at-risk 9th graders as my best YEAR ever.
It is hard for me to narrow it down to just one day, but I know the best day was when I was teaching Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. As an English teacher I discovered the Folger Shakespeare Library’s website. They had a tremendous amount of resources for teachers to bring Shakespeare alive in the classroom. My belief, and the philosophy of Folger, is that Shakespeare is an experience to be seen and heard, not just read aloud (poorly) by 15 year olds sitting in rows. So I transformed my classroom into a production space and for 6 weeks my struggling 9th grade students performed Romeo and Juliet live.
We marched, we recited, we staged, we laughed, and we cried.
The best day came when we arrived to the great feast. My students collectively decided that if we were going to act out a feast, then we should actually have a feast. Every student participated! They brought in food and performed their parts with gusto in costumes created on their own. It is a moment that is engrained in my memory with love and admiration. I watched some tough kids, kids who thought they weren't "school people," recite Shakespeare’s words with passion and appropriate rhythm. They understood the challenging vocabulary and enjoyed every day of class. They walked out of class proud of what they had accomplished. The Shakespeare Set Free opened doors for my students that they didn't know was possible. I had many that went one step farther and created their own video performance of scenes from the play as part of their final project. A few even posted on YouTube!
We did this in February and at the end of the year, when I surveyed my class, almost all stated that our days of Shakespeare were by far their favorite. Every day was a great day in room J19. I miss it!