Recently, my sophomore English class finished reading the tragedy "Antigone," a Greek play involving a strong-willed protagonist who stands up to society and tyranny despite her age and station. Personally, I love the play, and every year enjoy reading it in class. While the words to the script are always the same, the individuals in my classes subsequently change from year to year.
As a part of the unit, I assign students the task of memorizing 10 lines from the play and reciting them on stage in our auditorium. You should hear the gasps that erupt as I utter the words to this assignment. I give them the option to dress in costume as well, and usually only our class is in attendance. It is an opportunity to work on their speaking skills, interpret the play, work as a group, and well, have a little fun.
Despite their verbal reservations every year and their fear of presenting up on the big, high stage, we have a wonderful time. And the more involved the students are, the more gratifying and enjoying the overall project is.
This year was no different. In particular, I noticed that those students that are often quiet in the classroom used this opportunity to show their more reserved abilities. For example, the boy who sits two seats back from the front and hardly says anything was able to recite his lines to perfection and walked off that high stage with a smile on his lips and an applause from the class.
Then there was the more dramatic student who shined while on stage, taking this moment to revel in her element.
I love teaching, but it is moments like these that I take time to be inspired. Indeed, this particular student stepped up on stage to play the old blind prophet from the play, Tiresias. She donned an old ragged, white cloth over her school clothes and even covered her head. Then she bent her body as if to need a cane, and when the moment came, recited her lines in the very realistic voice of an old man. Her voice cracked and lectured over the dusty stage, and she ended her dialogue with, “...maybe he will learn at last to control a wiser tongue in a better head.” I laughed to myself, not at her performance, rather at how apropos the words are in our own political climate.
During this student’s spirited recital, I at first saw some of the other students smirk, but by the end, none could deny her talent as she turned this minimal assignment into a passionate performance. It was a wonderful experience for the class, as we observed the play we had read from the flat white pages of our text spring to life.
However, as I sat there with only my class in attendance, I sincerely wished more than us had witnessed it. It was such a raw moment of commitment and talent. In the end, it was one of those little moments that I know only I will get to see and appreciate as a teacher.
These moments make me want to paint and write; they give me hope and motivate me. What remarkable individuals - what impressive young scholars are these - when given the unbound opportunity to be creative. It is wonderful to see that opportunity utilized by a sublime intrinsic need. Antigone would be proud.
Brian Theodore is a language arts teacher at Corbin High School and lives in Corbin with his wife, who is also a teacher at CHS. He can be contacted at Theteachersdesk.email@example.com.