My son, who is in 8th grade, was in The Merchant of Venice this weekend. Locally, we have a theater group for students in grades 4-12 that does three full-length Shakespeare plays a year. The director could do simpler productions, but instead she stretches these young minds and expands their vocabulary and understanding of the world.
As teachers, it is comfortable to not stretch our students. I know teachers that give a simpler assignment because they feel too much of a challenge would be too difficult. But having read student poetry and reviewed student art for our contests, I see the students who have been stretched and it is amazing to watch the growth. When you have one excellent artist or writer in a classroom, then it is the child. When you have an entire class of great writers and artists, it is the teacher.
We have our essay writing contest coming up Feb 15, and our poetry and art contests the first week in April. Just as my son can use the word “peevish” and understand the concept of the risk of loaning money as understood in The Merchant of Venice, I know that stretching him brought a great return. Expect great things and great things happen.