Thursday, November 03, 2011

Because it is my Name!

I'm between classes right now.  Actually, I'm done with teaching for the day, but still have 3 more hours before I am finished with work for the day.  It's the last day before I get my final class back and will be teaching fulltime again.  I've had a student teacher this semester.  She's an excellent young teacher and we've had a good experience together.  I've kind of enjoyed the relative freedom that comes when you aren't teaching fulltime, but I've missed the students...and I've particularly missed teaching some of my favorite literature.  She had complete charge over all my classes for much of the past several weeks and only just started handing them back to me, one each week.  Next Monday, I will be back to full time teaching.

Still, it's been a good experience--for both of us I think.  She handed over the juniors and seniors in the middle of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, a play I have always enjoyed teaching.  We both read and watch the play, and as is always the case with something that's meant to be watched instead of "just" read, their response to the movie has been very positive.  I finished with the seniors this morning and thrilled to hear for the second day in the row (the juniors finished yesterday) John Proctor refusing to compromise himself any further by signing his name to a confession that was a lie, just to save his life.  You understand why he almost did it.  The scene between him and his wife is so sweet, so beautiful really.  And you want this couple to have a second chance, for them to experience a profound love they had only just realized.  But you also know that they could never enjoy their life knowing it was based on a lie, and knowing that their friends had gone to their death without that lie.

John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis acting the part) crumbles up his confession and cries out that he can't do it "Because it is my name!  Because I can't have any other on earth!"  So powerful, that acknowlegement of what his name--his reputation--means!  And even though this means he dies for something he didn't do, at least he's not living for something he didn't do.  A fine line, but a clear one all the same.  I love working through things like that with students.  They always want the happy/easy ending at first.  But on second thought, they always come around to what is right, to what has to happen if we are to learn the lesson that was intended.

And so it goes with our own lives.  We want the easy way through things, but deep down we know that we need the lessons.  We need the consequences.  We need to work things through and out if our lives are to mean anything.  If our names are to carry any weight--for our present and for our future.


Anonymous said...

What do you recommend that your students read to have a more historically accurate portrayal of the Salem Witch trials? Or for anyone to read?

Rondi said...

Thank you for your question. It's definitely one worth exploring, and an important one for students to address when reading historical fiction or drama. There's a fascinating article here that documents very well the discrepancies: