Saturday, January 25, 2014

And a Child Shall Lead Them

I've been to my share of school meetings led by union presidents, school supervisors, politicians, principals, teachers and parent leaders of booster clubs.

I've heard my share of the rally cries, and those cries are more often than not:

"It's all about the kids! We must keep our focus on the children!"

Yippee, right on, you bet, and down with the sourpuss who doesn't agree with and espouse this credo, this battle cry for change and advancement in all aspects of educating the next generation.


That's me clearing my throat.


That's me shaking my head.


That's me with a sneeze and a thought.

For many years, when I ran The Shakespeare Club, filled with eager-beaver kids willing to leap the high bars of the Bard, our club was bullied by a teacher who, for whatever reasons, devalued our work.

This teacher did lots of things to stand in the way of our efforts and I'm not going to whine on and on to promote sympathy because that's not the gist of this story.

I will tell you one of this fellow's habits: his practice of delaying students for 30 to 40 minutes after class. He specifically liked to hold back the ten Shakespeare Club members on our meeting days.

Now, I only had 18 weeks of Shakespeare Club meetings per year and each meeting only lasted two hours, so if you added it up I was losing a lot of time with these children, they were losing a lot of their rehearsal time, and other members were losing their acting partners.

Of course, I tried with Mr. Teacher. I flattered, I made deals, I begged, I stood at the class door while he (with his feet crossed on his desktop) shrugged, smirked and said, "They like me!"

I pled with parents, the principal and the booster club for help. I suggested they form an army and stand outside the fifth-grade classroom at 2 p.m. every Wednesday and usher the students out.

"Because," I argued, "isn't it all about the kids? Isn't everything we're doing here about advancing education, encouraging maturity, awakening awareness? Shouldn't we teach the importance of commitment to the team?"

The kids...isn't it all about them?

Here's the irony.

During my last year with this school, as the club neared Performance Day and a huge chunk of the fifth-graders' practice had been eaten up by this teacher, I looked up one Wednesday at 2 p.m. to find all the fifth-graders walking into Shakespeare Club on time.

"Whoa...hey...great to see you guys," I said. "What happened?"

"Well, Ms. Ryane," said Ellie, who looked to have grown an inch or two that week, "we just said, 'We have to go now.' We just said, 'It's Shakespeare Club, Mr. Davis, and we have to leave.'"

"Then what happened?"

"Nothing. We're here is all."


Shakespeare is fun. I like it because Shakespears words are so so pretty. I also like the plays romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Misdummers Night dream. Shakespeares words are so butiful and pretty did I mention that already. I joined the Shakespeare Club for two years because the shakespeare club sonded very fun.
—Emilia, 4th grade

1st photo from Seeds and Fruit