A Pre-Summer Night’s Dream by Andrew Lewis
Online teaching has actually forced me to become a little more intentional about my lessons.
When teaching in person, I have the chance to see if students don’t understand what I’m saying. I can have them ask questions right away, and I can spend a little extra time working with students one-on-one. I don’t have that chance with online teaching. Sure, I could get an email asking a question or offer a Zoom meeting, but that would be after the lessons has been live for a little while.
For my final unit this year, I was going to do Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It’s what I call Gateway Shakespeare. It’s easily accessible, follows a typical romantic comedy structure, and doesn’t have too many really long speeches. Plus, I find Puck hilarious. I decided to do that online, but it meant a lot more work than I would have done in person.
First, I had to film myself reading and explaining Shakespeare. I dusted off a suit jacket and put on a fez (because, as a Doctor Who fan, I actually have a fez), and recorded myself performing the Bard. It was the explaining that was the problem.
As Lucy always found out from Desi, I had a lot of explaining to do!
I created so many PowerPoints, recorded several videos, edited several speeches, added comments, and developed assignments for student. Doing this teaching this is often a lot of work, but this was a lot more! And I didn’t have any of that instant feedback I used to determine how well a lesson was going.
But, at least, when I worked on some of these Midsummer lessons, it seemed like summer.
Until I didn’t.
We had two warm days, a day in the seventies, and then dropped back into the fifties. At this point, the forecast is predicting a mix of rain and snow this weekend!
Excuse me, but I though this was May. All the Justin Timberlake memes on my Facebook feed said so.
Leading up to my unit’s start date, it was pretty cold. Midsummer allowed me to dream about summer as I worked with a little heater beside my desk. My basement office gets pretty cold.
Then, as I was wrapping up and posting the work online, I got a pre-summer dream: warm weather, singing birds, flowers blooming! It was lovely until the sudden drop in temperatures.
Maybe Titania and Oberon are fighting again.
One of the things I love about “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is that Puck offers us a chance to move past anything we didn’t like in the play. He says at the end, “If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended: that you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream.”
At the moment, it feels like the nice weather was a dream, but one day, the sudden cold will give way to June’s heat. By next year, I’ll only remember my complaint because Facebook will probably do that “One year ago today” thing it does.
So I wait. And I hope my students find something to love in the Shakespeare I give them. And maybe I can the weatherman a liar call, and we will not get that snow this weekend.
And I’m trying to take the old Puck’s advice in life. If it’s not that serious, let it be no more yielding but a dream.
Enjoy May, everyone! And maybe we’ll get to spend some of it around more of those we love.
Even if it’ll be brief and feel like a dream.