As is done in many classrooms around the world, I taught “Romeo and Juliet” to my Grade 9 students.
Many teachers are scared of teaching Shakespeare.
I was too, a bit, but I am also a huge nerd, so I ended up loving every moment of it.
I think, looking back, I was less worried about my students “getting it” and more worried about my students liking it. If you hate your first exposure to Shakespeare, then you are ruined for not only the future years of high school Shakespeare, but for opening yourself up to understanding and learning from some of the deeper themes of the stories he tells.
At the foundation of why I like being a literature teacher is my love of story and the power of story to shape persepectives. And “Romeo and Juliet,” like all of Shakespeare’s work (okay, not the histories, but no one actually likes those anyways) (seriously), has a lot of lessons to teach.
For our final writing assessment of the term, our studnets had to write a magazine-style editorial piece which answered the question, “What is true love?”
I read them all last night and, not only was I impressed by some of the insights they had on the topic, I was reminded that, as Christmas approaches, we have the opportunity to reflect the love we have been shown through Christ. (This doesn’t have to be through gifts– that’s not what “true love” is, anyways.) (Most of my 9th graders would agree with that, too!)
This is what my 9th graders have to say about love (in all their unedited, timed-writing glory):
Alana wrote an editorial titled, “Love will Build a House.” It was largely about romantic love.
“I’ve come to realize that many young girls pine for those brief snippets of romantic acts and affirmations that dissipates the true idea of love and precipitates the search for love,” Alana writes. She continues, later saying, “Love will not give you perfect chemistry with someone, but will become a common ground for both individuals.”
Rachel wrote her piece about familial love: “Why not make loving your family the first priority in the love department?”
“My parents always reminded me to ‘love your brother(or sisters in my case) as you love yourself.’ For a long time, thought that meant I should simply say “I love you” after I’d done something wrong and was told to ask for forgiveness. Of course, I do love them, but I don’t neccesarily do anything to prove it. Over the years, I’ve realized that love means much more, and it takes quite a lot of effort to truly love my family. I’ve learned that the secret to having a healthy relationship with my family is to show love the way Christ showed love….
In conclusion, love takes devotion and action, for it isn’t just an emotion. Love is an act of will. Growing up, I have learned that love is something I should base my life on.”
Alex didn’t give his editorial a title, but still wrote some thoughtful ideas about love.
“For me, true love is when you want to spend time with the person you love, not matter what you are to them…. People tend to say that true love is when you love a person because he/she has the full package, which are their appearance, personality, humor, athleticism. Some of these may be true to why you love someone, but all these things change somehow and never stay the same. Instead, true love should be when you appreciate the person for just being who they are. It’s not about their qualities, “perfect imperfections,” persona or anything else, but it’s about their simple essence. It is about their mere presence on the Earth, and how you enjoy them being who they are though thick and thin.”