As I sat on a gorgeous Sunday morning mentally preparing for the start of classes in just 24 hours, I chanced upon Jessica Lander’s amazing essay, “Making Classics Matter” (Perspective, August 26). What a treat reading a teacher’s account of how she succeeds in making the study of William Shakespeare interesting to a group of sixth-graders. Lander’s creativity and her obvious enthusiasm for the task at hand are inspiring. As a public relations veteran teaching the next generation(s) of PR pros, I am often challenged to make my profession seem interesting enough so that students will devote their efforts to mastering the requirements. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes not. After reading “Making Classics Matter,” though, I am reinspired and looking forward to diving into the classroom again.
Kirk Hazlett / Associate Professor, Communication/Public Relations, Curry College, Milton
Bravo to Lander for writing such a wonderful piece about the power of Shakespeare and the sheer joy and challenge of the language. We need more teachers who understand that curriculum dumbed down for MCAS prep will never make our students scholars and artists. Thank you for this inspiring piece.
Linda Nathan / Founding headmaster, Boston Arts Academy
I taught Shakespeare to high school seniors of all abilities for many years and found the same outcome as Lander. Students were enthralled from the get-go. Almost daily, students would stop me in the hall or in the classroom and state how they had heard another allusion to Shakespeare in the news, on a television show, or in a conversation. The Bard’s works taught my students how to think about complex, universal issues. There is no better preparation for MCAS than that.
Susan Patton / Rockland
Over the weekend, I had read One Big Damn Puzzler by John Harding, so I was delighted to see Lander’s essay. Although the book’s title might get a teacher in a tight spot, the novel explores Shakespeare’s appeal across time and cultures as the main character “translates” Hamlet into the pidgin English spoken on his remote island. As I read, I imagined the powerful possibilities inherent in doing something similar with Spanglish, texting, or different dialects and varieties of contemporary English. In Puzzler, Harding takes on the challenge of adapting not only language but also cultural and historical references to different audiences. This would be engaging and rigorous work for students of any age. Kudos to Lander for believing her students were capable of such work and for finding a way to make Shakespeare accessible.
Susan R. Adams / Assistant Professor, College of Education, Butler University, Indianapolis
More and more often these days we hear of the need and, indeed, the hunger for something substantial in our culture to oppose the pervasive “dumbing down.” Lander’s successful attempt to bring Shakespeare into the lives of young people gives me hope that the need is being met. Lander is only one person but a very important one — I hope and pray there are many more like her.
George McLean / Boston
Where can we find more teachers like Lander?
M.J. Keane / Stratham, New Hampshire
A SATISFIED CUSTOMER
Thank you for the wonderful article about Blue Heron Organic Farm in Lincoln (“One Tomato, Six Plates,” August 26). I live close to the farm and also shop at the farmers’ market every Saturday in Lincoln Center for the beautiful bounty from Blue Heron. Farm manager Ellery Kimball is a gem. I feel very fortunate, indeed.
Jean Palmer / Lincoln