Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog


Teaching Colleagues,

My heart is bursting, bursting for the students and teachers of Stoneman Douglas High School. I ache for the dead and the families and friends and students of the dead. I ache for the time that the healing will take. I ache for those who won’t ever heal. I ache that school invasions and school murders have become routine. And all the rest. You know all the rest.

And yet.

I am bursting with admiration and love for these surviving kids who are speaking out. Those who in a

handful of days have begun to show all of us—across the US, the world, people of every age and stage—something that you already know: that high school kids are made of brains, empathy, deep belief sets, passion, and an appetite for speaking truth to power.

Oh, the wonder of high school kids. There are 150 of them—right now as I write this—packed into our theatre performing Shakespeare for each other. It’s epic. It’s always epic.

I have always been crazy about high school kids, even the ones that drive me crazy. (You know about that too.) The first whole class period I ever taught was in a summer school class of kids who had flunked 10th grade English. I finished my first-45-minutes-ever-as-a-teacher bowled over by two big realities: (1) Even though I spent a gigantic amount of time planning that lesson, in the moment I had pretty much no idea what I was doing, and (2) I had a whole lot to learn from these kids. I have been learning from high school students and their teachers ever since.

On the day before the massacre, these Stoneman Douglas students were on their way somewhere, like all high school kids—in their growing up, in their lives. At different paces, on different paths. In many ways, like kids in our own classes or in the class next door or down the hall. Then: they were stopped short by a hideous tragedy that prompted many of them to a focused, fierce fearlessness. WHOA. In a matter of days, they have shattered the endless layers of equivocation that float around the issues of gun violence and mental health. Equivocation that has come to sound a lot like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Their own direct, honest, and clear voices are a breath of air, certainly here in DC as well as across the country. Their passion is infectious. Their willingness to call BS is something. But of course! Calling BS is a varsity sport that you can practice and actually perfect in high school.

I’m psyched about these kids, and the waves of kids that they are inspiring who are also speaking out. And I take almost as much delight in the grown-ups who have yet to take them seriously. My still-only-imaginary conversation with them: “You don’t think high school kids can stand up, be eloquent, and be counted? Really?! Stay tuned. And oh…you should meet the people who teach these children. They’re something else altogether.”

You all keep on keeping on with that.

Thanks and love,