“All that glitters is not gold; / Often have you heard that told”
When the Prince of Morocco picks the gold casket in Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’, after his peacock-like entrance and bravado about his popularity with women, we are hardly surprised that his choice is inaccurate. His superficiality exposes a shallow character, obsessed with an aesthetic void of authenticity. The ‘fair’ Portia may be beautiful but there is more to her than the tempting shine of gold. Shakespeare presents a mildly disappointed Morocco, but he shows no guilt. He lives in a material world.
I don’t know many educators who choose their vocation for the money and with performance-related pay, I don’t know many educators who do their utmost to help a child succeed for the cash. Indeed, some will feel guilty for receiving a pay rise when they wonder about the lists of things they could have done or said to help that one child just that little bit more. A guilt about not having done enough can be ever present, if allowed. Many teachers this week will have been feeling guilty because they are self-isolating and were unable to be in school, even if they were working from home.
“Some there be that shadows kiss; / Such have but a shadow’s bliss”
In the same play, the Prince of Aragon chooses the silver casket. Shakespeare creates a pompous, almost narcissistic character, who cares more for status and who sees himself as superior to others; we are not surprised when he dismisses the possibility of a lead casket containing what he thinks he deserves, because he sees it as ‘base’, common and beneath him. When he opens the silver casket and find a fool’s head, he feels foolish and departs angrily.
Are there educators out there who think more of themselves, at the expense of the students they teach? Perhaps there are some, I am not sure. It is clear that teachers with families may be thinking of themselves and their own families more during these uncertain times. However, this isn’t really the same as being self-consumed and self-obsessed. I’ve met teachers who seem happy to tread all over others to gain favour and climb a slippery slope to promotion and higher status, but not many. Indeed on a journey from novice to experienced teacher, there a is a point of transition at which we realise that it is the impact of our actions that is important rather than the action in itself. We all want our students to succeed. We don’t want to feel guilty for having left anyone behind.
“You that choose not by the view, / Chance as fair and choose as true.”
Bassanio is a gambler and we already know he’s a noble man who likes to take risks. When he chooses the least promising, lead casket, his bet pays off and choosing the casket based on something more than its material appearance, makes him seem wise.
I’ve rarely met a teacher who gambles, but many seem to be wise. At times, I have had to cut corners because I might have run out of time and this has made me feel very guilty. However, this has often felt like a sensible, wise risk to ensure I am able to rest and have sufficient energy to teach my classes and give my own children, as well as myself, some time.
I might still feel guilty though…