My most persistent “You’re not helping me” student– let’s call her X– surprised me yesterday.
I need a pencil.
I don’t have my book. You didn’t tell us to bring it.
You’re not helping me.
Can I go to my locker to get __________?
If I hear any of these one more time, I may do as I threatened: cut off a finger and feed it to the biology room’s famous turtle, Limpy. Or I may smile and say, “Hm.” Or I may begin a logical discussion of why I am still enforcing the same rules I’ve enforced all year, “To make you more responsible.” It’s hard to say what I will do, or which idea is the craziest.
Last week X put her head down and tried to sleep for most of class. With ten minutes left, after repeated prodding, she sat up and spent three minutes looking for quotes from the novel we’d read. “I can’t find anything,” she said.
“You didn’t look hard enough,” I said.
“You have to help me!” she said.
“No, I don’t,” I said. “You have to look until you find it.” I really wanted to kill her, but instead I said that. She did not, as she sometimes does, threaten to bring her mom up to the school to reprimand me for how I treat students. Teachers may indeed be reprimanded for: tone of voice, look on face that hurts student feelings.
Yesterday X was sitting in the back of the row. It was time to work on essays again. She turned around and pulled a copy of The Tempest off the shelf behind her. “I want to read this. I want to read Shakespeare today. Here, I’ll read the first part. You read the second one.”
The rest of the class was doing what they would do. And damnit if I didn’t want to read some Shakespeare, something beautiful, instead of nagging the kids to study for their final. So I crouched down next to her desk and read with her.
Good, speak to the mariners: fall to’t, yarely,
or we run ourselves aground: bestir, bestir.
None that I more love than myself. You are a
counsellor; if you can command these elements to
silence, and work the peace of the present, we will
not hand a rope more; use your authority: if you
cannot, give thanks you have lived so long, and make
yourself ready in your cabin for the mischance of
the hour, if it so hap. Cheerly, good hearts! Out
of our way, I say.
If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to the welkin’s cheek,
Dashes the fire out. O, I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer: a brave vessel,
Who had, no doubt, some noble creature in her,
Dash’d all to pieces. O, the cry did knock
Against my very heart. Poor souls, they perish’d.
Had I been any god of power, I would
Have sunk the sea within the earth or ere
It should the good ship so have swallow’d and
The fraughting souls within her.
And the older I get, the more I love The Tempest. It’s a play for older people, control freaks, people who have struggled with betrayal and loss and creative power.
2 thoughts on “The Tempest”
Well, the comment that I have to say is that this was funny as heck when I started reading it. As I read on I got more settled and thought that about wraps it up with the complex yet simplicity of Shakespeare. I’d like to hang that bit from The Tempest on a wall in my classroom. Thank you for all of this.