Monday, June 11, 2012

Fools, Mortals, and Teaching Magic

If you're lucky, you like your day job.  If you're very lucky, you have days during which you absolutely know that you're doing a Good Thing.  I haven't always liked my day jobs (I began my official work life as a teenaged dishwasher when minimum wage was - well, truly minimum.  Even so, I maintain that job was better than waiting tables), but I've tried my best to find the positive bits within them.

Somedays that's not too hard to do.

This summer, my teaching load consists of two "cafeteria" drama classes.  You know the type - a little history, a touch of acting, a jot of design, and chocolate pudding at the end.  At such a pace - I have five weeks with three lengthy sessions per week - you often just cross your fingers and hope that the class is getting something worthwhile out of it.  Medea one day and Chinese opera the next.  Today, they performed scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream, an assignment that I'm always hesitant about.  Like most folks (in college or out), my students are polite in the face of my unbridled enthusiasm, but are convinced that Shakespeare is boring, hard, and pretty much a one-way ticket to Snoresville.  So I've got an uphill climb and I'm not afraid to use bobbleheads and plot maps, to explain bawdy jokes, and demand that they read out loud - early and often - to get them up the hill!

I flippin' love teaching Shakespeare - and Midsummer during summer is a great way to go with such an abbreviated class. There's SUCH a tremendous payoff when students get the jokes and appreciate the beauty of the language.  When the play-within-a-play clicks and they can laugh at the absurdity of Nick Bottom and his no-talent friends - well, that's just nifty.  To give credit where it is due, I am greatly aided by the lessons collected by the Folger Shakespeare Library - yes, I've replaced my usual text with Folger crystals and yes, my students do notice!  Maybe their involvement with the Bard ends here, but maybe they take in a production (The Tempest is being done for free over in Charlotte - click here!) or rent a DVD or seek out (squee!) Whedon's upcoming version of Much Ado.

Good storytelling doesn't go out of style and that's a lesson worth learning. And seeing students get excited and engaged about learning - call me a geekess, but that's cool.

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