Othello – the untold story

My year 10s are tasked with transforming an act or scene from Othello into another text type and, as I was explaining the assignment to them today, I mentioned that you could play around with genre as well as form. So, in preparation for tomorrow’s lesson I thought I’d provide a brief example of what they are expected to do – it’s rushed and imperfect but it’ll do.

Here it is, a twisted take on Act 5, Scene 2 re-imagined as part hard boiled detective story, part satire:

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She was dead. That much was obvious. In fact, those present at the scene of the crime swear that she came back to life briefly just to say “A guiltless death I die” before passing away again. That raised a few eyebrows but what mattered most to Emilia Watson was finding the guilty party before they could kill again.

Certain that the immediate surroundings were bound to contain clues, Emilia searched the bedroom. The bed itself was draped in silken sheets generally reserved for weddings and other special occasions. Tangled in the linen was the victim herself, a wad of fabric stuffed into her mouth. The exact cause of death was unknown; there was no bloodshed so it wasn’t a stabbing, and the foul stench associated with common poisons was nowhere to be smelled.

‘Perhaps,’ thought Emilia, ‘I should have had some training before opening up my own detective agency.’

Not one to give up at the slightest sign of trouble, she continued her search. Not far from the bed Emilia found a dark skinned man hunched in a ball on the floor.

‘Strange. Why didn’t I notice him before?’ She pondered this as she inspected his appearance.

She followed the tears from his eyes, down his cheeks and onto his neck. Nothing unusual there, that’s the direction tears normally take. Further down she noticed scratch marks on his arms – that was unusual. Most strange, however, were the words spewing from his mouth. Emilia knelt down to listen closely.

“O, she was foul! Whose breath, indeed, these hands have newly stopp’d: I know this act shows horrible and grim.”

The man was clearly upset but, as Emilia didn’t speak Shakespearean, nothing he said made sense. As he continued to mumble away, the only words she understood were handkerchief and whore which she doubted were useful in helping her crack this case. No, this man would only sidetrack her from the task at hand.

Emilia continued to search the room but the interior decorator was clearly a minimalist. Fortunately, the lack of clues was offset by the arrival of her husband and some other men. For the most part, Emilia decided that most of these men weren’t worthy of her attention (although one was a bit of a spunk). That said, the smile on her husband’s face was a bit disconcerting.

“Iago,” she questioned. “Why do you smirk?”

“Smirk? I do not smirk.”

“You do, and you are.”

“Perhaps I am just happy to see you,” he replied.

“Unlikely,” she retorted but checked his crotch anyway. Indeed, he was not happy to see her. As she eyed him off further she noticed characteristics she hadn’t paid attention to before; among these were his elongated chin, pencil moustache and penchant for black clothing.

“Why do you look at me so, woman?”

“I’m starting to think you are not what you are.”

“Are you saying, then, I am the villain?”

Iago seemed quite shocked at this accusation but Emilia was certain he was up to no good. It was then she found her biggest clue:

“What is that bag you are holding, husband? Why is it marked with a large dollar sign?”

Iago neared. “It is Roderigo’s fortune. I have acquired it from him.”

“Really? Well then, if we are now rich I don’t need to work anymore.” And, with that, Emilia threw her empty notepad aside and strolled from the room dragging her husband behind her. “Come,” she said. “We have shopping to do.”

“What about the murder you were trying to solve?”

“Oh, I’ve got no idea who did it. I’m as confused about it now as I was when I started.”

Iago smiled.

‘Shocking’ classroom behaviour

I’ve got this theory that if you make one lesson stand out (like, really stand out) then the content associated with that lesson will be more memorable and thus more beneficial to the students and their future exam success.

 

Two years ago I ran a revision session using games typically associated with kids’ parties, such as pass-the-parcel. Last year I did something similar but with more ‘mature’ games – while studying Nick Enright’s Blackrock we played spin-the-bottle and beer pong (but with study questions NOT alcohol).

 

Today… the students walked into the classroom to see craft materials laid out for them and their teacher in a lab coat. Why? Well it all stemmed from this:

 

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That’s the opening of chapter 2 in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. In that section of the novel a group of students are being walked through the facilities where they grow and train the future citizens of the world state. Rather than provide my students with real flowers (and picture books), I gave them the resources to make their own.

 

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I figured we could make flash cards in the shape of roses, telling the class that many students praise the use of flash cards in helping them learn content for other subjects.

 

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As for the picture books, I thought they’d be good ‘study guides’. I told the students that memorable passages or important lines could be paired with images of their construction and that this may help them remember them in the exam. It sounds legit… right?

 

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Anyway, IN THE NOVEL, the beautiful display of flowers and bright, glossy pages is essentially a trap designed to encourage children away from an interest in nature and knowledge. Just as the children begin to enjoy these treats a loud siren blares and they receive a mild electric shock.

 

So… I pre-prepared a water pistol and hid it in the drawer closest to the television. I then set an alarm on my iPad and connected it to the tv with the volume as loud as it would go. Just as the students began to enjoy their craft lesson, a loud siren blared. I apologised for the ‘accident’ and went to turn it off, retrieving the water pistol as I did. After spraying everyone with a jet of water from my gun, we had a giggle and then got back to work.

 

THAT’s what I call a lesson they won’t forget in a hurry.

 

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* I should also point out that I’ve also had some poorly planned, terribly managed lessons of late too – but that’s something for another post.

My first attempt at a list poem

5 reasons I don’t want to go to school/work

 
1. It’s raining outside and all I want to do is hide in bed, wrapped up in the warmth of my blankets.

 

2. It’s beautiful outside and all I want to do is feel the sun’s kiss on my skin.

 

3. I’ve planned a perfect lesson but you haven’t brought a pen, the Internet is down and…

I kind of lied.

There are no perfect lessons.

The very notion that I have any idea what I’m doing

when the system changes every few years

when I’m preparing students for a future we can’t predict

when my class consists of kids so different from each other

when initiatives and curriculum are best of enemies

when I’m dealing with people

is ludicrous.

 

4. I’m human. My fatigued mind is buried in my tired body; my heavy heart distracted by issues outside of class.

 

5. I’ve lost faith.

The fingers of blame point clearly in my direction,

not necessarily individually

but collectively teachers carry a lot of guilt.

Results from standardised tests fail to impress the powers that be,

society sees only what it wants to see,

and parents pass on their responsibilities.

The papers report another teacher has been bashed

and I haven’t experienced anything that rash but I’ve felt the brunt of disrespect.

 

5 reasons I want to go to school/work

 

1. To write relief, a lesson that someone else will deliver, requires effort I just don’t have.

Besides, the students misbehave when I’m away

and there’s a chance the teacher will ignore what I wrote

which simply results in more work for me when I return.

 

2. I’ve got mouths to feed and bills to pay.

 

3. I like the people I work with.

They’re cute and quirky,

smart and strong,

not afraid to do something wrong to get the right result

and, most importantly, they tolerate me and my eccentricities.

 

4. I’m mental.

Honestly, what person in their right mind

would choose to spend their time with thirty teenagers?

 

5. I have faith – in me, in my colleagues and my students.

I’m a person working with people

and I hope my humanity, my humility and my humour

provide an example worth replicating.

If all the world’s indeed a stage,

then I’m the one running rehearsals

and I see first-hand what the media doesn’t show;

it gives me hope.