The Joie de Vivre of Teaching

It was turning out to be one of those days.

We were reading aloud Macbeth in class, and I could feel it. I was being as passionate as I could be. I was stopping students to point out the meaning of Shakespeare’s words. I was showing how hardcore Lady Macbeth was. I was pointing out how Shakespeare was showing how hardcore Lady Macbeth was. And yet, I could feel it.

You know what I’m talking about: those times when you are giving it your all, and yet, you can almost see the life being sucked collectively out of the room. I was calling on students, asking them questions, but it was like they where in another planet.

In previous years, I probably would have raised my voice. “Pay attention! C’mon! Can’t you see what he’s trying to say?!” Today, by the grace of God, I realized at the moment that such a move would be completely futile (like it’s always been for me).

I decided to completely change gears. I had them work with partners on a T-chart, with Macbeth on one side and Lady Macbeth on the other. They had to explain what each character was like, and use quotes to support their statements.


What I found completely surprised me. The kids were completely engaged. They were looking for good quotes, and what’s more important, they were reacting to the text. They were saying things like, “How could Lady Macbeth be so evil?” “Why doesn’t she just kill the king rather than make her husband do it?” “She’s crazy!” I was completely blown away. After they completed their T-charts, we had a great discussion and discussed gender expectations then and now. It was one of my greatest Literature lessons of my life.

I think that the moral of today’s story is that sometimes the lesson needs to be completely scrapped and redone. I believe that part of teaching is the feeling of the classroom. Passion and excitement must be felt by teachers and students, and when that’s lost, the learning stops. Sometimes we need to recapture the excitement and spontaneity to make a lesson truly meaningful.

Perhaps someday, I can make every lesson as good as today’s.


One comment

  1. Nice article. I write a children’s book series with children in the co-author seat and I have found many of their ideas to be richer and more spot on than mine. it took a lot for me to step back and let them “do it” and I applaud you for doing the same.

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