Thursday, September 10, 2015

If Wealthily then Happily in Padua

 “Twixt such friends as we few words suffice…”  -Petruchio

Home School Rant #3:  Screw the Seating Chart

Our Shakespeare Performance this year was divided into two plays:  The lower level class studied the tragedy Othello, which is about jealousy and friendship and knowing what qualities to look for when choosing people to surround yourself with.  (Perfect for high school.)  The advanced class studied Taming of the Shrew, which is about power struggles and keeping family happy through compromise.  But Shrew is a comedy, and thus the conflict is driven through, often bawdy, language. (Our favorite).  Both plays are about knowing how and when to compartmentalize.
 “Therefore, if thou know one rich enough to be Petruchio’s wife…”  -Petruchio

I come from a long family line of teachers.  I have one relative in particular who has been at the same institution for so many years that her previous students have grown into parents and sent their kids to be recycled to her again.  In fact, she has been doing this job for so long, her instincts have become so honed that she can accurately predict the life course of a student after about a week of first grade.  This kid is a future doctor.  This kid is a future lawyer.  This kid will probably dance on a pole.  This kid will most definitely serve time behind bars… (you get the idea.)  Teachers profile kids.
This is done on the very first day when making… you guessed it:  A seating chart.  
 “As wealth is burden of my wooing dance…”  -Petruchio 

There are deliciously delightful and deviously decadent characters in these two plays: Scheming Iago, defiant Kate, lustful Roderigo, and raucous Petruchio… and great teachers know their great kids.  But when it comes to a classroom seating chart, teachers are forced to narrow students into two categories:  Instigators & Neutralizers.  It’s a matter of mere pedagogical survival.  The “Quiet Kid” (most often a great student, attentive, organized, thoughtful, considerate, and passionate about learning) is placed precisely between two “Knuckleheads” (most often…the kid that can’t sit still, the kid that lays on the floor, the kid without a book or pencil or completed homework, that kid who cheats, or picks his nose or touches himself inappropriately or throws spit wads or carves on the desk or punches somebody… I’m confident you’ve met enough knuckleheads in your life to catch my drift.)
 “Be she as foul as was Florentius’ love, as old as Sibyl, and as curst and shrewd as Socrates’ Xanthippe or worse…”  -Petruchio

I can’t emphasize this enough, this profiling occurs in every class as a matter of mere teacher survival.  (Even in advanced, super intellectual classes.)  The child that is loved, nurtured, prepared, pampered, and thoughtfully cared for, is used by teachers to thwart, misdirect, and temporarily neutralize the miscreant behavior of the majority.  I mean…are you kidding me?  Of course it happens.  One teacher / Fifty students.  We’re just trying to keep the inmates from climbing the walls
 “She moves me not—or not removes at least affection’s edge in me.”  -Petruchio

Furthermore, if you knew this… if you knew that your child was constantly being pestered to… loan a pencil, let their work be copied, explain a concept, give a sleeve for a booger wipe, be the butt of a joke…then why would you subject your child to this arena?
 “Were she as rough as are the swelling Adriatic seas.”  -Petruchio

Critic Harold Bloom, who penned: Shakespeare, the Invention of the Human Being, theorized the Bard's characters were the first to truly demonstrate self-awareness, doubt, and a conscience.  Before Shakespeare, characters were stock figures in recognizable costumes catering to a canned reaction, but these new characters, through their language, awareness of motive, examination of fear and personal insight, forced the audience to examine their own life and actions, to better themselves.  
“I come to wive it wealthily in Padua; If wealthily, then happily in Padua.”  -Petruchio

Generally, being a parent is about making concessions, considerations, and compromises to keep your child on the right track.  After teaching in Asia all these years, I’ve truly been blessed by the challenges of living here, but jaded also.  Pulling my children out of public education, for a certain amount of time, is something I’ve pondered and prepared for years.  Can a new kind of human be created?  Can a deeper level of understanding be achieved?  Truly, with all the facts, the timeless question of how far a parent is willing to go for their children’s education remains… one for the books.

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