SAMSON : “Tis true; and therefore women, being the weaker vessels, are ever thrust to the wall; Me they shall feel while I am able to stand , and ’tis known, I am a pretty piece of flesh.”
( GLOSSARY : STAND : To have an erection ; IN SENSE : as sexual sensation )
I kid you not. This is prescribed work . It’s all there in black and white in the Romeo and Juliet study guide.
It is period 6 on the Monday of Week 6, Term 1. February. The hottest February we’ve had in years.
Thirty eight Gr 10’s snigger as I read the second page of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I say the word “erection” without so much as a pause or a redness of the cheeks. I have become tough. I am Mrs O, better known as “Mam”. I have been teaching High School English for 3 years now. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING scares me anymore.
My classroom, a newly erected prefab structure, is boiling hot and completely airless. We have one fan rotating uselessly in the front of the room. My pupils insist on wearing their full school uniform all day, every day. Jerseys and blazers included, even though the temperature sometimes rises to over 40 degrees around lunchtime. It is a matter of pride.
The heat ( and maybe Shakespeare ) makes them fall asleep in class. Most have not slept properly the night before. Too many hours spent scrolling through endless selfies, Instagram posts and YouTube videos. The nightlife of typical teenagers around the world. These are the ones residing in the school hostel , usually with the financial means to purchase Airtime and Data.
In one or two cases, the sleepers are those living somewhere where sleep can be dangerous or constantly interrupted by arguments in a one room shack . They come to school with bleary or red and sometimes yellow eyes, skin ashy, expressions blank. These are the ones you worry about.
The sleeping gets to me. I have been known to spray offenders with perfume to try and wake them up. Many a boy has left my classroom smelling of Estee Lauder’s Pleasures or Issey Miyaki’s Rose on Rose. ( Maybe it will remind them of what was said in English period? You never know.)
But there are days when a sixth sense tells me to just let them be. To let those tired ( scared? ) minds have some peace.
To me, this is the tightrope I walk daily in my classroom. What to allow and what not to. Which child I must treat with brisk efficiency and to which one I must offer softness. Which of these faces hide a lifetime of hurts? Which one is just trying their luck? Which one is lying and which one is begging to be heard?
Herein lies the adventure, the creativity and the love.
Tomorrow we try again.
‘I am not a teacher, but an awakener.’ –Robert Frost