The title of my post comes from a check-in activity I learned at the Folger Teaching Institute in which I participated last June. At some point of closure — the end of the day or right before lunch — we gathered in a circle and made a statement about something we had just done beginning with “I noticed…” I introduced the idea to one of my junior British literature classes. They are currently studying A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We had a really good class in which everyone was on their feet acting at some point. We reviewed subtext and tried some exercises before getting in groups and using subtext and movement to interpret lines from the play. It was such a good class! They are usually somewhat reluctant to participate, and I don’t know what was different. Actually, I have a theory, but I can’t prove it. My theory is that one or two students who are usually quiet and don’t often participate decided for some reason unknown to me to get into it that day, and the rest of the class just followed their lead. I can’t explain it. It was actually kind of strange! At any rate, it seemed like the perfect time to close up with an “I noticed…” I hadn’t planned to to do it, but it felt right. I started with “I noticed how much fun it was when everyone participated and got involved today.” (Or words to that effect.) My entire insides screamed YES! when one student said, “I noticed how reading the text and trying different subtexts and acting made it easier to understand the play.” I liked that one student noticed that his classmates were better actors than he anticipated they would be (he’s a fine actor himself — much acclaim for his work in the play last year). I felt sad that some students used “I noticed…” to be down about some aspect of themselves. I can’t remember that anyone used “I noticed…” to to be down on the class, which is good because “I noticed…” carries that risk, I suppose. It was the best five minutes of my teaching all week. I need to do it more often. In case you are curious, my students have read up to the part when Bottom is “translated” and Titania has fallen in love with him.
I worked a bit on next year’s teaching assignments, but whether or not they will actually be used, I have no idea. It depends on the schedule and enrollment and in terms of students, who signs up for what classes. Working on Romeo and Juliet is a lot of fun for me, but this time around, I am noticing I am not as much into it as I have been in the past. After all, this is my tenth year teaching the play, and in some cases, I taught it to several classes. I am really familiar with it, and I think at this point, I can very nearly teach it in my sleep. That sounds really boastful, and I don’t mean it that way at all. I love the kids’ excitement over the play. It’s hard not to feel enthusiasm when they so clearly enjoy what they’re learning. But this year, and maybe it’s because I’m teaching MND and Taming of the Shrew, neither of which I’m nearly as familiar with, I am not enjoying it quite as much as I have in the past. That means one of two things: 1) maybe it would be a good idea for me to get out the ninth grade, or 2) maybe I need to try some new approaches. The problem with the latter is that I have a really good plan, and it works. The former seems like a better idea to me given that Romeo and Juliet is the only part of the curriculum in ninth grade that really excites me, and if even my excitement for that play is starting to diminish, perhaps it’s time. So whether it will happen or not, I can’t say, but my suggested schedule doesn’t include any ninth grade classes. And perhaps taking some time off teaching it will be good if I wind up in ninth grade again. If I do teach ninth grade next year, I need to figure out a way to get excited about it.
Taming of the Shrew is going well, too. We tried physicalizing some lines, something I also learned at Folger. Folger has a video of Caleen Jennings, who led some of our classes, demonstrating how to physicalize lines, and I shared it with the students. Their reaction was not what I expected. They thought it was funny and were excited to try it. I expected they might be “too cool” for it and think it was weird. One of my students still has the two lines we tried memorized, and she said it was interesting to see how physicalizing the lines helped. I tried to talk her into trying it to help her learn her lines for our school play, but she didn’t think she would. Here’s the video:
So all in all, a really good week with some fun on-your-feet learning and reading. Is there anything more fun than teaching Shakespeare? Not in my book, anyway. (Sorry about the pun. No, I’m not.)