Head of English

When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.

Maya Angelou

 

Maya Angelou’s words capture the essence of what we, as an English Department, seek to achieve with our students – to show them the value of literature as a vehicle for personal and societal improvement by opening their minds to new worlds and new ways of thinking.

This journey starts in Year 7 with the study of Andy Mulligan’s novel Trash, a compelling read that provokes students to consider the issue of sustainability by bringing to life the hideousness of slum life. The journey concludes with the Year 12 study of texts including the consideration of political issues that shape our world in the Advanced People and Politics module. Ultimately, as a department we endeavour to ensure that Loreto girls enter into the world as articulate, critical and socially aware individuals who have a deep understanding of who they are and their place in society.

In Term 1 a new initiative, Poetry Week, was introduced by the English Department with Years 7-10 enjoying performances by the Poetry in Action theatre company. The lively and interactive nature of the shows enabled students to see the relevance and joy that poetry provides. The Poetry Slam, where students from all years were invited to write and perform their own composition, was another fun and creative event that allowed students to experiment with poetic form and to develop a personal voice.

Term 2 was a particularly busy and productive term for the students and staff. In seeking to bring English ‘to life’ for the students, and in the spirit of Henry James’ words that ‘There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea’, Year 8 teachers held a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party which the students thoroughly enjoyed. This event concluded the Comparative Study unit where students explored the connections between Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Hayao Miyazaki’s contemporary Japanese film, Spirited Away.

The Whitlam Institute’s annual ‘What Matters?’ writing competition was another way that students developed their critical and persuasive writing skills by expressing their views about societal issues they are passionate about.  All Year 8 students entered the competition with three students, Yasmin Say, Elizabeth Travers, and Georgia Cluff, shortlisted for the Year 7 and 8 category with Loreto Normanhust being one of only three schools to achieve three nominations. We keenly await the announcement of the winner and wish Yasmin, Elizabeth, and Georgia the best of luck.

Recent research, particularly that of Paul Tough has acknowledged what many of us already knew; academic success is intimately linked to personal qualities including resilience, conscientiousness, optimism, self-control, and grit. The difficulty for educators is how to best develop these qualities within the students we teach. The English Department has made a concerted effort to implement pedagogical approaches that promote these capabilities, including implementing Cultures of Thinking routines. As part of the department’s commitment to improving teaching and learning, a group of English staff will be undertaking the Harvard University Cultures of Thinking course designed by Ron Ritchhart which will focus on honing group and individual thinking processes.

 

Ms Belinda White

Head of English