Several years ago I had a humbling and enlightening experience. I was teaching 8th grade English. Let me tell you about Brandon …
Whenever I look at the beautiful model of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, constructed by a former student, I am reminded of how children are unique. Brandon was an average eighth grader in my sixth period English class, or so I thought. He was always polite, outgoing, and entertaining in class. However, Brandon was not interested much in reading and writing. This made his English success difficult at times. He consistently achieved a 70 average in my class and didn’t seem to strive beyond minimal effort … that is until we read Shakespeare.
We began our study looking at Elizabethan language and discussed how a man might preserve his integrity with his use of words during that time period. Brandon enjoyed working with his peers to create insults in Elizabethan language. When we read excerpts from three plays, he seemed to be able to understand the general meaning of the language and began to make connections.
The time for me to introduce our final project was fast approaching. I wanted to address all of Gardner’s intelligence areas in creating the project options. Choices included soundtracks to plays, Shakespeare’s biography, recitations, and costume design, to name a few. And then there was Brandon’s choice. Brandon chose to research and recreate the Globe Theatre. This would prove to be a lengthy process consuming many after school hours to complete construction.
I learned my greatest lesson when it came time for Brandon to present his project to the class. Prior to the beginning of first period, Brandon proudly carried in his project. From the moment I saw it I was amazed. Brandon’s project had been made entirely of wood, which he had stained and intricately nailed and glued together in the most accurate recreation I have ever seen produced in my classes. His stage included a visual representation of a Shakespearean play. Each level of the construction portrayed amphitheatre seating with stairwells and entryways. A portion of the theatre was removed in order to view a cross-section of the interior.
Throughout the morning, as my classes came through, students asked who had made the model. I proudly proclaimed that it was Brandon’s creation. By the time sixth period rolled around Brandon had received compliments from his peers and his confidence was evident in his presentation. Not only did Brandon display his talents for us in the actual construction of the Globe Theatre, but also he was able to articulate its history. He explained to his classmates how the theatre had burned down and been reconstructed, how the Puritans were later responsible for it being torn down due to moral and ethical conflicts, and why it was and is a landmark in the history of theater and literature.
Brandon excelled beyond his average performance shown throughout the year and proved to everyone, especially me, that every student is smart in his own way. Brandon’s project continues to serve as a constant reminder of a student who became one of my best teachers.
I see Brandon in my own daughter. I bet you know children like Brandon too. They are creative spirits who have a passion just waiting to be set free, and that is when these students flourish. Unfortunately, our education system is still rigid and archaic and does not allow for such insight and expression of our gifts and talents. Rather, students like Brandon tend to feel restricted by school and are left trying to find a way to get by – to do the minimum and simply survive.