Saturday, January 16, 2010

Some Love For The English Teachers

You know, we talk a lot about how the biggest problem most people have with Shakespeare is that they got a lousy and boring introduction in high school. I don't think that's fair. After all, I got the standard public high school introduction to Shakespeare, and look at me now :). I'm sure there are teachers in all subjects that phone it in and pick up their paycheck, but that doesn't have to be specific to Shakespeare.

To that end, I'd like to show a little love to the English teachers, and encourage other regulars to do the same.

Mary Cunningham was my ninth grade English teacher. I remember she taught us Romeo and Juliet, because I remember having to memorize and recite the balcony scene, and Leah DiNapoli saying that she and I should have done it together because we were the only two in the class that took it seriously. I also remember watching the Zeffirelli version, complete with topless Juliet, and all the girls in class getting all bent out of shape at how excited the boys got. I remember she taught us Julius Caesar because she told Matt Conway that his paper was excellent, let him bask in the applause of his classmates for a bit, and then told me that mine was superb. Not a way to make the nerdy kid accepted, Ms. Cunningham! :) I remember watching To Kill A Mockingbird in Ms. Cunningham's class, and everybody realizing that she was sitting in the corner crying during the "Hi, Boo!" scene (in the intervening years I've come to understand the context of that scene from the eyes of someone other than a fourteen year old). I also remember reading "Three Deaths" by Tolstoy in her class, and trying to make the argument about the hypocrisy of the one lady who wants her family around her, all while still being a pain in the neck to everybody. "This lady never shuts up!" I said. The problem is I said it while Ms. Cunningham was speaking. Oops. :) Sorry Ms. C! Thanks for introducing me to Shakespeare!

Mr. Corey was senior year, and he taught us Hamlet. I remember him showing us the Olivier movie, and then diving for the Pause button when he realized he'd never explained the concept of "Oedipus complex" to us :). I remember doing a stream of consciousness paper in his class about the day I got into a car accident, being asked to read it in front of the class, and chickening out. He read it, and I thought it did a mediocre job ;).

I wish I could remember my other teacher's name, honestly. I feel bad. I want to say it was Mrs. McCormick, but I can't remember if she was social studies. 10th grade, we learned Macbeth. I have no stories about this, honestly, other than the crush I had on the girl that sat in front of me. :)

I do not remember any of my college English teachers, truthfully.

I think it's easy to say who had the biggest influence on my Shakespeare geekery. Glad I got her first!

Anybody else got a favorite teacher they want to send a shout out to? Is it ironic to end that sentence with a preposition?


Mystic said...

Thank you so much for sharing your stories. It does mean a lot to those of us who teach to know that we had some kind of positive effect on a student's love of literature or theater. One of my students came to me after Christmas to tell me he had gone to see his first play, and my 6'7" football player told me just the other day, "You know Ms. R, I really did like Hamlet!". These small statements mean EVERYTHING!

Cheers to you, and thank you for taking the time to praise your former educators.

Shakespeare Essay said...
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Ray Eston Smith Jr said...

Mrs. Black was my 10th-grade English teacher. When I first set foot in her classroom, I was expecting the usual stale rules of grammar and pretentious babble about Literature. Instead, she taught me how to think.

She told us that in our Shakespeare essays we should back up each assertion with one or more quotes - let Shakespeare tell us what he means. I did that and basked in Mrs Black's praise.

But I think Mrs Black would have flunked most of the "authorities" on Shakespeare (past and present), who write as if they've only read the plot summaries from Cliff Notes.

Ernest Blair said...

This is so awesome. Thanks. I thought that I was pretty organized. Clearly I’ve got some work to do. I am sharing your posts with my family and friends. Cheers!