photo of teacher

Double Double, Toil and Trouble:
Engaging Urban High School Students in the Study of Shakespeare

Marsha R. Pincus
J.R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Whose English? Getting Students into the Language of Shakespeare Shakespeare's Blues: Making Personal Connections to Macbeth Interrogating Macbeth: Crafting a Literary Analysis

Where do I teach?

What are my students learning?

Teaching Practice
What's my approach?

Student Work






About Me

I have certain beliefs about my practice that you’re going to find no matter where you look in my teaching. If I have questions about gender, power, identity, language, that are central to my teaching, you’re going to find those things being explored, because that’s who I am.  It’s all going to be there.  My concern about the Macbeth piece is that because it was something I’d done so many times before, it feels polished, as opposed to exploratory. I’m not sure that I had my own question that was driving it as a personal inquiry, because I’m in a comfortable place, having taught it before. In Playing with the Possible, you can see how I usually approach my teaching, from a place of disequilibrium.

About My School

Before coming to Masterman, I taught for more than 20 years at Gratz, a neighborhood comprehensive school in the African American community. That history informs my practice at this magnet school. My teaching context invites new questions of my practice, such as

  • How does one teach so it matters in a place where grades are paramount?
  • How do you make the learning about language, and culture, and literature matter in their lives? 

These questions address the contrast between engagement and compliance.  In a school where they’re very willing to comply, overly willing to comply in order to get a grade, how do you truly engage them in learning that matters to their lives?  At Gratz, you had to engage them so that it mattered in their lives, because they weren’t going to comply just to play the game. I teach about language and storytelling in a way that’s going to make it matter and connect to their lives. I engage them in questions about their own lives, and make it matter. Because they will pretty much almost to a person do what you ask them to do for the grade.  That was not what I wanted to do as a teacher.

Site last updated December 12, 2005