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Brendan Largay, Head of School

BrendanLargay, Head of School

On My Return to the Classroom

Before January 5, 2022, the last time I was in a classroom teaching students was March 11, 2020. As it turned out, navigating the first full year of the pandemic was enough to fill my plate, and thus, my teaching took a back seat—and how I have missed the toil and the trouble of it.

This year, I am lucky to return to a seventh grade classroom for January, along with colleagues, English teacher Adele Clements and associate teacher Dani Kelly. I am luckier still to teach my favorite playwright and my favorite play, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, to a room full of curious yet cautious students. Many students had their first, gentler introduction to Shakespeare in theater class with Ms. Dempsey and Mr. Parsons in their earlier years at BDS. A scene or two would be rehearsed and performed. Some critical character backstory would be provided, along with excellent theatrical instruction. And perhaps even a cauldron was involved.

My class tackles Macbeth in its entirety—symbols, allegory, confusing language and all—taught by at least one teacher who is a bit of a Shakespeare nut, which, I gather, can make things more intimidating, not less. Here we are, enthralled together by the bad behavior of the Macbeths, the mystery of the witches and their prophecies, and ever hopeful for Scotland’s eventual recovery.

This teaching opportunity and a brief visit to the Erskine Library yesterday bring into focus our students’ boundless curiosity at a time of year when the pace of their learning is especially exciting. In the Erskine Library, I encountered two beloved teachers—reading specialist Heather Smith and librarian Amy Sprung, each helping a first grade student find that just right book. Everything about the moment was perfect. Heather noted with visible pride, “In first grade right now, their language is exploding. There aren’t enough books out there for them to read. They are insatiable.” And this brings me back to my seventh graders.

Adele, Dani, and I gather after each class, much like the three witches, and marvel at our students’ engagement with this challenging text. They, too, are insatiable. Even as they grapple with the “Old Shakespeare English,” as one of them put it, they remain steadfast in their effort to master it. Their anticipation for and curiosity about the next horrific idea that the Macbeths might act on or prophecy the witches may offer is as insatiable as the first grader’s.

This month, their language and learning are exploding in the best possible ways. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, as someone once wrote. I am excited to see what tomorrow brings for our students’ learning.

BrendanLargay, Head of School

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