English Department continues electives conversation during MEA professional day

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English Department continues electives conversation during MEA professional day

US English teacher Randall Findlay presents modes of writing in Writing Seminar. English teachers are always talking about how to modernize their classes and open them up to many points of view.

US English teacher Randall Findlay presents modes of writing in Writing Seminar. English teachers are always talking about how to modernize their classes and open them up to many points of view. "Really the biggest change you’ll see, [is the] sort of adaptation of our curriculum to reflect real world and real international sorts of ideas and how we relate to those," Findlay said.

Evelyn Lillemoe

US English teacher Randall Findlay presents modes of writing in Writing Seminar. English teachers are always talking about how to modernize their classes and open them up to many points of view. "Really the biggest change you’ll see, [is the] sort of adaptation of our curriculum to reflect real world and real international sorts of ideas and how we relate to those," Findlay said.

Evelyn Lillemoe

Evelyn Lillemoe

US English teacher Randall Findlay presents modes of writing in Writing Seminar. English teachers are always talking about how to modernize their classes and open them up to many points of view. "Really the biggest change you’ll see, [is the] sort of adaptation of our curriculum to reflect real world and real international sorts of ideas and how we relate to those," Findlay said.

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Literature is always evolving, and the SPA English department is always evolving to keep up. On Thursday, while students took advantage of the three-day school week, the English department spent much of the morning continuing a conversation about electives offered to juniors and seniors. This conversation will guide future conversations about changes in the ninth and tenth grade English curriculum.

Upper School English teacher Randall Findlay and K-12 English Department Chair Andy Hueller reflect on how they’ve seen the courses change.

“I think the biggest thing that you could point out, if you were looking at a class list from, say 10 years ago, you would see in the English department not one, but two [British literature] courses. Brit Lit. one and Brit Lit. two… If you look at the curriculum now, you won’t see any courses called ‘Brit Lit.,’” Findlay said.

British Literature I and II were courses that used to be taught at SPA. These courses were discontinued and some of their texts were absorbed into other classes. The reason for this shift was to modernize the English curriculum and cater toward the students’ interests.

“So what’s really fascinating with that shift,” Findlay continued, “is that it means that SPA has walked away from an emphasis on Western European literature as a core of the curriculum. Because if you have 20 electives over the 11th and 12th grade years and two of them are specifically Brit Lit., plus Shakespeare, which is specifically Brit Lit., that means 15% of your courses are dominated by exclusively British literature… the old emphasis on British literature in the past as the pinnacle of writing in the world is wrong headed and gives people an incorrect impression of what literature is all about….So that’s really the biggest change you’ll see, [the] sort of adaptation of our curriculum to reflect real world and real international sorts of ideas and how we relate to those.”

English teachers are always talking about how to modernize their classes and open them up to many points of view. This includes looking at literature read in class and whose voices are heard in class.

The English department is right now having discussions about what electives will look like in years ahead, so what holds them together, what is the philosophy for what an upper school English class is.”

— K-12 English Department Head Andy Hueller

“It’s a frequent part of our conversation, how do we include as many voices, as many ways of looking at the world as possible based on the voices of the authors of the text we read, based on how do we set up our classes so that we’re inviting as many voices as possible, as many points of view as possible, into discussion? Those are big things. We’ve definitely over the years taken a look at courses that have traditionally had whiter voices, and sometimes older male voices, and we’ve asked ourselves how do we make this a more inclusive curriculum, one that better represents many ways of seeing and asking? But that’s definitely another thing that we’re talking about right now as we look at future electives,” Hueller said.

The English department is looking forward to future years and already working on things they want to change to improve their curriculum.

“The English department is right now having discussions about what electives will look like in years ahead, so what holds them together, what is the philosophy for what an upper school English class is regardless of what teacher you have or what the specific topic of the class is and so forth. Those are the types of discussions that we’re having right now,” Hueller said.

Though the English department could be seeing some big changes in the future, English courses will always have the same core.

“In any [English] course you take at SPA there’s careful and hopefully frequent reading, that you’re learning how to write in ways that are useful to you now and in college, that you are talking about what you read, and you are talking about the world,” Hueller said.

 

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