My students concluded their performances of Macbeth today. For the last two weeks, after working through the play using the Folger Shakespeare Library’s “Shakespeare Set Free,” and other stuff I have made up, my students break into self-selected groups and choose a scene from the play. Earlier in the week I video taped their “dress rehearsals;” they were terrible. Each year, they always are. Three days later after seeing themselves on tape, they performed in front of 40-60 peers in my classroom. They were nervous and pissed at me, but they were great. They did it all: blocking, interpretation, how to say the lines and react to what was said. They knew their characters, the motivations from line to line, even the minor characters. The audience applauded, and my students finished the year with the feeling that they had done something difficult successfully. Maybe I am deluding myself, but for the last decade I have ended my year with my students doing, really doing, Shakespeare, and it works. They are engaged to the last day they are in my class, and they are thinking through a difficult text making meaning in a social context. What more can an English teacher want to happen in her class? Success on a standardized test? Affirmation from some outside testing service? Are we, after years of being good students ourselves, such grade whores, that we as teachers willingly sell our students as commodities so we look good when they come back with good AP scores?

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