It is teachers like Rafe Esquith that make me excited about my future and the possibility of teaching inner city students. On Tuesday in my adolescence class we watched the PBS Special about Esquith and the Hobart Shakespearians. Wait though, he teaches fifth graders, that’s right fifth graders, ten year olds. But it gets better, he teaches at an inner city school in L.A. where most of the kids speak English as their second language and speak either Spanish, Chinese, or Japanese at home! Fifth graders! It is amazing that they can not only read the language but also understand it! They understand the meaning of Hamlet as much as I did after taking my lower division college class! This is crazy and extraordinary, but at the same time shows us how much a child can accomplish when they have a passionate teacher.
These kids have such an understanding of the play that they study, that every year they put on a production of it, and every year Sir Ian McKellan visits the student and watches them perform a scene as well as performing one himself, which you can see here. Watching these children be able to produce the emotions of the characters adds to the testament that they understand the words they are saying, every single one. As I have been thinking about which books I would want to teach students, Shakespeare is one that I was not sure the students would be able to grasp in junior high. I stand corrected. Rafe Esquith proves that with the right passion for the books that you teach, your students will not only understand the plot, but will also be able to relate to one or more of the themes.
So I think it is safe to say that Rafe Esquith has become my hero, I even went to Barnes and Noble and bought his book, and I hope to be able to reach my students as well as he does one day. I know it will take a lot of effort on my part, but if I ask for effort from my students, I have to show them that they are not in this alone, and that I will be there every step of the way. Those are the teachers that parents and politicians are calling for, but more importantly, those are the teachers that students are crying out for. Some teachers have the skills and the degree, but without the passion, they will be like the players in Hamlet, playing all for nothing, for Hecuba. THey play for the entertainment of the rich.At the same time there are parents with the passion that do not have the skills to teach their children, like Hamlet, who had the passion for revenge, but did not have the courage to follow through. Our students need teachers with both the passion for their future and the skills to teach them and challenge them not simply entertaining them. And it will be a challenge, for both the students and one day for myself, but I thrive on challenges and often get bored with contentment, and I do not want to teach all for nothing, but for something, for some one, for the kids that need my help.