Taking on the Bard

Friday was the last day of classes at the school in which I teach. We have different kids on different days, so that’s multiple last days of school. Basically, a week long party! Given the intensive nature of my year, I decided my “fun project” for our party days was going to be dancing. Cupid Shuffle, Macarena, Cha Cha Slide… basically, if it was popular when I was young, I played it haha Several of the older students decided it should be a dress up day, so my work bestie and I joined in (at the request of several students). It was fun!

Ms. Lanie and Mrs. Polster
Last Day of School 2023

All the movement throughout the day, all the student excitement for next year (seriously… they kept telling me they were sad it was summer), and a super awesome notebook gifted to me from a colleague, and the creativity started to flow. Fall semester I will be teaching African mythology, Shakespeare (Hamlet for fall and Midsummer Night’s Dream in the spring), along with a combo of photography/journalism/yearbook. I’m so excited!!!

Last year was data heavy. I work for an alternative program that doesn’t do much data collection. We’re project based for the most part. It’s hands on messy fun and I LOVE that aspect. I have always preferred to be hands on and messy. I mean, I’m the girl who did martial arts and ground grappling along with dance classes and art classes and music classes. These are all things you DO, not things you sit and theorize about. Next year’s classes will include sword fights and drama and trips to the park to stage photos along with the reading and the discussion. No more random “tests” or homework I then have to grade in my free time. No more writing 60 page papers about the data or proving that I’m competent. And the best part? No more observations! I actually wound up really liking my teacher by the end of the year, but it’s always ackward to have someone in the room when we’re discussing the symbolism of King Arthur’s dead horses and the kids are stuck on the dead horses part haha Next year will just be us being us. I’m really geeking out about the whole thing!

Anyway, as for the title of this blog, Taking on the Bard… I’ve searched through the available iterations of Shakespeare’s plays. I haven’t found one I like. Last year, while teaching European mythology, I rewrote all the stories to update the language. In my psych classes, I used scenes from Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet to explain some of the emotions. Dude and Bro were terms that often came up in my retellings of these stories, as well as my retelling of the King Arthur story. The kids think I’m crazy, but in a good way. They said I make Shakespeare make sense. That the stories seemed difficult to understand until I related them in my crazy GenZ/Millennial mashup language. (I mean… I’m a Millennial who spends most of her time with teenagers… is it any surprise I speak a strange combination of those two languages? It’s a little like Spanglish but generational instead.) Every time I’ve mentioned rewriting Shakespeare myself, other adults encourage me to find the resources instead of spending all that time doing it myself.

The thing is, I like to rewrite Shakespeare. It’s the same feeling I get when I work on the horror retellings of classic fairy tales. I get a giddy sort of excitement when I think about jumping in and updating the language in a way that makes sense to my particular group of kids. So I’m starting there and have the summer to either 1) get it done or 2) decide to use what I consider a subpar version. I feel so excited about this and can’t wait to get started! Bonus: Shakespeare’s stuff is public domain, so I can publish my versions when I’m done writing them! No matter how this project plays out, it feels good to have the chance to write again. I was beginning to wonder if I’d remember how…