“Through the Classroom Window” is an opportunity for teachers to share the inspiring learning that takes place in their classrooms, giving others a glimpse into the heartbeat of the school. Today, Grade 7 teacher, Dan Goldberg, shares how his students recently considered issues of power through the lens of Megillat Esther, expanding their learning on Purim with video creation.
As part of their exploration of ancient civilizations, Grade 7 students recently completed their study of Megillat Esther. Their encounters with King Achashverosh, Queens Vashti and Esther, Mordechai, and Haman offered them an important opportunity to explore the Generative Topic “We should aim to use power responsibly.”
Through their close reading of the original text of Megillat Esther, the class discovered that it is not the G-rated story they encountered as young children. The book is filled with mystery and intrigue, which calls for looking beneath the surface and reading between the lines.
As the story unfolded, the students continually considered the question: At this point in the story, are the characters using their power wisely and justly, abusing their power, or wasting power that could be put to constructive use.
Here are some of their observations, taken from the chart they worked on in class:
Exploration and Documentation of Power
At this point in the text, how does this character use, abuse, or waste their power?
Quote: “And the king said [to Haman]: ‘The money and the people are yours to do with as you see fit'” (3:11).
Explanation: A king should think more responsibly than to hand over his signet ring to a man who wants to rid all the people of a certain faith. He is wasting his power by “handing it” to Haman.
Quote: “But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command conveyed by the eunuchs” (1:12).
Explanation: Queen Vashti uses her powers responsibly because she is making a choice to stand up and tell the king “no” because she doesn’t want to be embarrassed.
Quote: “But Mordechai would not kneel or bow low” (3:2).
Explanation: Mordechai is using the power of free will, a good use of power, to stay faithful to his religion and not bow down to anyone who isn’t God.
Quote: “Queen Esther replied: ‘If Your Majesty will do me the favour, and if it pleases Your Majesty, let my life be granted me as my wish, and my people as my request’” (7:3-4).
Explanation: This is the power of persuasion, because Esther knew the king would listen to her. She also phrased her words in such a way so she didn’t give her identity up. She is using her power wisely, by persuading someone who listens to her to do something good.
Quote: “All the king’s courtiers in the palace gate knelt and bowed low to Haman, for such the king’s order concerning him” (3:2).
Explanation: Haman making people bow to him is abusing his power because he isn’t the king and can’t make people respect him. I don’t think Haman’s parents ever told him that not everyone in the whole world will like him; or that you need to respect people to be respected.
Following their study of Megillat Esther, Grade 7 students had the privilege and responsibility of planning the Junior High Purim Program. The class was divided into five groups, each of which focused on a different figure from Megillat Esther (King Achashverosh, Queens Esther and Vashti, Mordechai, and Haman).
The groups prepared short videos and other interactive learning materials and activities that were intended to “convince” the rest of the Junior High that their Purim figure played the most powerful role in saving the Jews of Persia. In this video, students persuade us that Mordechai took decisive action.
It was admittedly more of a stretch for certain characters, but with a combination of creativity and humour, students rose to the occasion!