An independent Catholic school for young women in grades 7-12

Teaching a British Lit Class

Teaching a British Lit Class
Catherine Butera '21, Communications Intern

As Ms. Mayo pulled up our Google Slides presentation on the smartboard, I could feel the anxiety start to creep in. I had never taught a lesson to my classmates before, especially not with the other members of my group attending class virtually from their homes. I glanced at my group members’ faces on the large screen positioned at the front of the classroom, wondering how well we would be able to pull this off. Our British literature class had been sectioned into groups and given the task of teaching a lesson to the rest of our classmates. My group was instructed to find a unique way to dive deeper into our study of Hamlet. Our idea? Spend our lesson comparing and contrasting Disney’s The Lion King with Shakespeare's famous play. We were given one class enrichment period in which we were to educate our other classmates on the parallels between the two works and lead discussions on the topic.

When I sat at my desk in Ms. Mayo’s cozy classroom, I was excited to share our slideshow with our peers. The line between excitement and anxiety began to blur, however, as I continued to remember that I was the single group member in school on that day. The barrier of a computer screen made me feel disconnected from others. Questions began running through my mind. How will my group members know when it’s their turn to talk while on Zoom? Are the desks in the front of the class six feet away from the board? Do I have to give the presentation sitting at my desk? These were completely new things to consider, as I had never given a presentation modified for a pandemic. My teacher handed me her freshly-sanitized keyboard for the smartboard and told me I could remain at my seat to present if I would like. The proposition seemed odd, but it seemed to be the smartest choice. As I controlled the slideshow from the back of our classroom, my group mates and I took turns presenting our slides to the class, whether from inside the room or on Zoom. We went through each of the main characters of The Lion King and discussed who they represented in Hamlet, as well as how the story of The Lion King can be seen to be heavily based off of the plotlines of Hamlet

One parallel we discussed was between the two protagonists of each story: Simba and Hamlet. Both the young man and lion are the sons of kings who end up in predicaments after the deaths of their fathers. These parallels extend to the characters of their royal fathers, power-hungry uncles, love interests, and quirky duos of friends. It was amazing to me to learn about how deep the connections between a centuries-old play and a childhood movie went. As kids, most people become familiar with the story of The Lion King, but it is far less likely they learn the Shakespearean roots of the plot. I found it so interesting to think about how a complex story of a young prince in Denmark could be transformed into a childhood classic. After we came to the conclusion of our slideshow, I felt a sense of satisfaction with the job we had done, even in unusual circumstances. My groupmates had known exactly when it was their turn to present and the slideshow went incredibly smoothly. I learned that I enjoyed the teaching experience of the project, and, at the end of it all, I realized I might even prefer some aspects of this unusual type of presentation.