7 Shakespeare Quotes That Sum up Teaching

He may have lived four hundred years ago and spent most of his days striding around in doublet and hose, but Shakespeare was actually more modern than you might think. Thought his plays were about kings and queens and lovers and cross-dressing? Think again. In fact, he was writing about teaching…

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!”

You stay up til 2am marking their books; you give up evenings and weekends for school trips and events; you spend hours of your free time decorating the classroom. And let’s not even mention the amount of your own money you invest in resources every term. Do the students care? Well, of course they do, but it’s rare that they’ll show gratitude. King Lear knew all about the arrogance of youth.

“Tear-falling pity dwells not in this eye.”

Don’t spin me another excuse about why you can’t do your homework, or why you’re late, or why you’re not wearing the correct uniform. I. Don’t. Care. Honestly, when you’re a teacher, it’s easy to see how Richard III became so pitiless.

“All’s well that ends well.”

To Shakespeare, it was a snappy title. To teachers, it’s a maxim to live by. You may have to sweat blood, cry tears of frustration in the store cupboard and tear your hair out on a daily basis, but as long as they pass that GCSE, it’s all worth it.

“Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend me your ears.”

Or, as teachers would probably put it: “For goodness’ sake, 9B, will you please listen!” But Mark Antony in Julius Caesar had a more poetic turn of phrase.

“This is very midsummer madness.”

Sometimes, classes just go wild. They become feral. Often, it’s down to the weather: high winds can make students run amok. One colleague used to swear a full moon sent a class doolally. Whatever the reason, like Olivia in Twelfth Night, you sometimes just have to accept that a class has embraced the midsummer madness.

“Nothing will come of nothing.”

We’ve all had one: a student who steadfastly refuses to write anything during a lesson. And then acts surprised when they get told at parents’ evening that they’re not doing well. King Lear had it right – if you don’t put in the effort, then you don’t reap the rewards.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Hamlet knew what he was talking about; this sentiment strikes at the heart of teaching. You have to think positive. You have to believe that somehow, this class will get through their GCSEs. That you will finish that pile of marking. It’s the only way to stay sane.

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