Saturday, January 11, 2014

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out! Out! Brief candle.

For a brief moment, I spent time with first year students in an English as a second language classroom with a teacher, Edna Garcia, a 2013 summer institute fellow through the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield. Ms. Garcia teaches at a school with 99% of the students on free and reduced lunch and a  47% graduation rate. Although she was feeling under the weather, an instant, momentary cure came to her as she grew excited to share with me the visual representation a S. American student did as she coached them through the junior year reading of Macbeth. Yes, the young man was literate in Spanish, but his English was limited when he moved to the United States and his first American school had him reading, well, Shakespeare. Ms. Garcia said that he studies the Elizabethan English to make sense of the story and (re)presented the tale through this art project built from wood, hinges and toys he had lying around the house. Outside the "castle" were parties of soldiers fighting before the door. Yet, when you lifted the top of the castle, the young man built a Leggo table where several soldiers and royals were seated. Not only am I amazed at the creativity, but I'm always fascinated by the class of tradition with developmentally appropriate texts in school. Here, however, the young man proved me wrong. Who cares that his first book to tackle in high school was Macbeth? Who needs beginning readers in English when one has a drive to tackle a piece of great literature.

Although I didn't get to meet this young man, Ms. Garcia explained that hearing him offer his artistic choices in the project for retelling the story was rather remarkable; she didn't know if he understood the difficult text or language that was mandated of readers. Alas, the ingenuity of youth outshines all expectations. With clever insight, interpretation, and critical thinking, he explained that the fair if foul, foul is fair theme was at the heart of his replicated model.

Something wicked this way comes when we don't have high expectations for what young people can accomplish. We should always view them innovative and brilliant. A few months in a new country, English as his second language, and in a school where the new culture is strange, he successfully portrayed his knowledge of a difficult text through art!

I am inspired.

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