How Shakespeare Helped Me Get My Groove Back

How Shakespeare helped me get my groove back.

He totally is…

This school year brought a lot of new responsibilities and a lot of changes to my position. I was sharing a room. I was doing more math intervention, which is an interesting challenge, but definitely isn’t my strength. I was teaching a pull-out intervention class to 5th graders. Fifth graders are cute, but definitely not my favorite grade. I felt like I wasn’t making progress with any of my students. I could feel myself slipping into a pattern with my math interventions where I would learn about new strategies for math intervention, try them once or twice, and then slip back into what I was used to (yes, I am absolutely a Conscious Stage teacher when it comes to math intervention). I knew it was happening, but felt powerless to stop the cycle. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out the best way to manage the behaviors of my 5th graders–all of whom had different needs, both academically and social-emotionally–and it was definitely making it difficult to deliver appropriate interventions. They weren’t making progress and I was worried I wasn’t supporting them.

I just felt frustrated and stuck.

I was also coteaching for the first time. I liked my time in the classroom and I love my coteacher Drew. But the unit we were working on at the beginning of the year wasn’t something either of us was really excited about and neither of us felt like we had a voice in the planning process. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what we wanted out students to know, understand, and do, and was just doing my best to infuse appropriate writing skills instruction into the unit.

And then, Shakespeare showed up. Specifically, Romeo and Juliet. Drew had done a Folger Ed workshop (taught by another amazing colleague, Gina) over the summer and was really excited to teach Shakespeare through performance. I was nervous. Because, you guys, R&J is really dirty. And we’re teaching 8th grade English. I also had to unexpectedly fly solo for the intro lesson. I was terrified.

But it turned out great:

And all of a sudden, I was feeling that high that comes from a great lesson with a room full of engaged students.

I stood in class trying to keep a straight face as kids began asking questions like “Mr. Murphy, what’s a maidenhead?”


“When he says ‘thrust maids to the wall’ he means…”

“Exactly what you think he means.”


And then started having amazing, deep conversations about the role of women during Shakespeare’s time and how awful it was that Samson and Gregory weren’t really worried about raping Montague women, but were terrified of getting into an argument with Montague men. Because the second one is the thing that will get them hung.

They were interested and excited. And so was I.

They were engaging in close reading of Shakespeare without eye rolling.

They were on their feet and acting and directing.


Up on our feet performing and directing Shakespeare

And I was walking into school with a much more positive outlook. I was looking forward to English class, to planning with Drew. I was even looking forward to grading paragraphs about Romeo and his take on love in Act 1.

Now I’m even ready to dive into researching math interventions and trying out new strategies for my 5th graders. It’s amazing what one unit can do.

Have you had a time when you felt burned out and like you weren’t accomplishing what you wanted to in the classroom? How did you get your teaching groove back?

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2 Responses to How Shakespeare Helped Me Get My Groove Back

  1. Elaine January 9, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

    Loved reading about your experience with the Folger method of teaching Shakespeare, Sam. It reaffirms my faith in teachers and students, too, and what they can accomplish together. Great work! Enjoy!!

    • Samantha Mosher January 9, 2016 at 8:25 pm #

      Thanks, Elaine. Obviously, you’re invited to see their final performances. I’m really excited for them!

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