Monday, June 16, 2008

What I'm doing for summer vacation: The Folger Institute

This summer, I will be participating in the Shakespeare Folger Summer Teachers Institute. It was a rather lengthy application process and involved getting a decent NEA grant (yes, I get paid for the participation), but somehow I was selected. Since then, my emotions have ran from trepidation to excitement.

Trepidation:

1. I will be commuting every day, and expected to be in DC fro 8-5. This is pretty intense for summer vacation. In addition, I've heard from a friend who did the program that it is grueling.

2. I'm worried everyone will know more about Shakespeare than me. Really. We're doing four plays - The Taming of the Shrew, King Lear, Richard III, and Much Ado About Nothing - and I've never really read any of them. I vaguely recall watching Richard III in my Film and Literature class in college, but think I barely read it. I saw a production of Shrew about ten years ago and sort of recall the plot. I saw a terrible production of Lear at Center Stage and left early. As for Much Ado, I know almost nothing about it. The program just mailed all the plays to us, and I've been reading Shrew, and am amazed by how slow I am getting through them, and how quickly I forget the characters' names and such. On one hand, I'm genuinely enjoying the play. On the other hand, I'm on Act I, Scene 2.

Excitement:

1. Four weeks of intense academia is probably just what the doctor ordered this summer.

2. I think I might pick one of these plays for my Junior IB class next year, and I'm quite sure it'll help me with some Romeo and Juliet lessons next year with the 9th graders. This year, with the 9th graders, I sort of feel like I bombed Romeo and Juliet a bit. I think the kids "got" the play and all, and we worked hard on it, but I didn't teach them very good reading strategies for trying to tackle it on their own; we mostly read it aloud in class. Reflecting back, this probably didn't offer many transferrable skills. I'm hoping the institute includes some items about how to offer Shakespeare to reluctant readers. Anything to be a better teacher, nahmean?

3. Despite the fact that I know it will be strenuous summer, I'm excited about getting to know DC better, and excited to commute on the Marc Train, and excited to rely less on my car.

4 comments:

Alan said...

Of all of Shakespeare's plays, I think Shrew is the most accessible. However, the last scene always seemed kind of mean to me.

I remember reading in college that one of Shakespeare's contemporaries wrote a sequel to Shrew where Kate tamed Petruchio in their later life. Our Prof. said that it's not clear whether this was due to popular criticism of the Shrew's misogyny or just due to envy on behalf of Shakespeare's colleague.

jackie said...

I know what you mean-- this year I taught Shakespeare for the first time (Macbeth and Hamlet) and ?I know I could have done a better job! I did some workshops recently myself and I do think I'll be much better for it. If you have to, you could always watch some films-- there's a great Much Ado movie with Helena Bonham Carter, I believe. Then at least the plot details would be fresh before you dig into more thorough textual analysis.

baltimorediary said...

You're probably going to have the most trouble with Lear, mostly because you're not a parent yourself. That's one you don't really "get" till then. (Sorry.)

If you can, get your hands on a copy of the Riverside Shakespeare. The textual notes and other annotations are invaluable.

Maybe you could show the kids West Side Story and ask them if it sounds familiar?
Your guys might also get a kick out of A Midsummer Night's Dream, especially if you follow it up with a showing of the 1935 version of the film, which is one of the better renditions. Or, if you have the time, show them a few versions of any given play and let them compare and contrast to what's in the original text. What stayed in? What got cut out? Why do you think that choice was made? Does it change anything?

Enjoy the class. Shakespeare can be grueling stuff but it's pretty rewarding, too.

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