top of page

I Love Teaching Teenagers (I really do!)

Short story 4: Yeah, I Teach Shakespeare To Teenagers and It Is not a form of Torture?!

Two things you should know about my teaching style: one, I tell bad, bad, really bad jokes. The second thing, I enjoy telling bad, bad, really bad jokes.

And it is all my father's fault!

Oh, and that's not all, my father had me memorizing Shakespeare, EARLY! You know that one emoji with the clenched teeth? I am doing that right now, hoping you don't abandon this story on principle alone.

It is really is quite punny when you think of it, for years, my electrical engineer father sparked conversations riddled with rib-tickling word play. No house was safe from his address. Every time we tried to steal the show, our plans were foiled, and even the corniest joke never fell on deaf ears. He may have been the resident manager of our local hydro-electric plant, to us he was always the damn boss. I can hear you laughing as you read this, Dad!

I was the gifted child, clearly, as I was the one member of the family who could turn his "turn of a phrase" right back at him. He may not have been a classroom teacher, but he was always teaching us. "What is the name of this song, Jessica? Who wrote this song? How many numbers in PI do you know? See that star up there? Listen to my favorite lines of Shakespeare..." and so on and so forth. My brothers and I were his sponges of the waters of knowledge. Whoa, that was deep! (Get it?)


"Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day..."

Years later, I found myself teaching Shakespeare's Macbeth to advanced students. They were reciting back to me the famous soliloquy of Act 5, because their crazy English teacher challenged them to memorize the speech and present it as a quiz grade.

"Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterday's have lighted fools

the way to dusty death."

In all the years I assigned this task to my students, I never had one fail. Was it the competition or more likely the fear of humiliation that made them successful? It didn't matter. Once it was done, they loved any opportunity to recite it with the grin of achievement outside of their comfort zone.

As was often the case, I thought of my Dad as I did this activity, and on a sudden whim, I called my now-retired-but-consulting Electrical Engineer father on my cell phone, and finding him free, put my class on speaker phone.

"Out, out, brief candle!"

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,

that struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing."

Ah but dear bard, life does have meaning. For each new year, somewhere a person reads your words, marvels at them, and compares them to their own lives. As it is through the sharing of knowledge that we all find life's purpose and meaning.

I can still hear my father telling my students,"Good show!" as he said so many times to me.

bottom of page