To be or not to be in the classroom |

To be or not to be in the classroom

Kathryn Reed, Tahoe Daily Tribune managing editor

More often than not students cringe when they find out they have to read Shakespeare in a certain class. I know it wasn’t just me rolling my eyes.

I don’t know if I had listened to older kids, so I grew to expect to hate the great bard, or if I just had teachers who could not teach the playwright. I think much of the problem is that he wrote plays and not novels or short stories. Plays are to be acted. They are not meant to be read in monotone voices by unenthusiastic adolescents.

Thursday I witnessed some wonderful acting at Sand Harbor in the production of “Taming of the Shrew.” Besides the spectacular setting right on the lake, the choreographer threw in some modern twists that grabbed the attention of the audience.

With such a wonderful resource right here on the South Shore, it would seem like there would be a way to get our Shakespeare-studying students to the sand to see some live theater. Sure, the language is archaic. However, when the words are brought to life, the meaning becomes crystal clear. There is a theme, there is a point. There are all those things my teachers tried to tell me about. I just needed to see it.

Classes begin today at the lake schools in Douglas County and in eight days in Lake Tahoe Unified School District. It is too late for this year’s group of Shakespearean-learners to go to Sand Harbor, but maybe it should be something to think about for next summer. Why not show the kids Shakespeare and then teach the words?

Shakespeare has wonderful tales to teach. An English teacher friend of mine has his students trade insults from the time period. Now you may dismiss such an approach at first, but if you saw and heard the sexual innuendoes in Thursday’s performance, you would have to admit Shakespeare was colorful. My friend’s lesson forces the kids to think about their words, their meaning. In doing so they then begin to have a better grasp of how Shakespeare wrote and can comprehend his works.

Teachers often have students read the book and then show them the movie. Maybe that is not the best approach. Maybe it should be reversed. I think more could be gained by doing this, especially when the author is difficult like Shakespeare. There are plenty of his works that have been made into movies.

I remember reading Shakespeare at home as a homework assignment. It was more frustrating than learning a foreign language because I knew it was English I was reading and I still didn’t get it. At a minimum, we need to get the kids out of their seats and acting out the play if they are not going to be able to see a professional version of it. And it doesn’t even have to be professionals, my high school drama department put on Shakespeare presentations.

I realize teachers have a ton of responsibilities. But their utmost one is to teach. And sometimes that means doing something new and innovative. It means they must realize that not everyone learns the same way. I know it’s a tough a job. I have a tremendous amount of respect for teachers.

There are ways to make kids realize Shakespeare is worth their time.

As Mr. Shakespeare wrote in “Taming of the Shrew” — “Away, you three inch fool.”

Kathryn Reed is the managing editor of the Tribune. She may be reached at (530) 542-8047 or

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