Photos by Elizabeth Moody
For years, St. Mary’s English teachers have been working together to offer more choices for students. Lively and engaging discussions about poetry, marginalized voices, faith and doubt, and creative writing have already begun, and the teachers are excited about what else is in store for this year.
Picture this: I’ve just seen a classmate whom I haven’t heard from since she texted me to ask if sigfigs would matter on the second semester chemistry exam. She hugs me and asks “How are you doing?” Instinctively, I respond “good!” with high pitched excitement. Then, silence.
“So… What book did you read this summer?” I ask.
This question was my lifesaver during the inevitable silence that occurred when I reunited with a classmate after a summer apart, and it was always followed by an interesting conversation about our summer reading books as well as our excitement about the new English elective options which are tailored to the interests of St. Mary’s students. The English teachers have been meeting for years to plan the changes to the program. “We really just wanted to offer more choices for students to dig into literature, topics and authors that are of personal interest.” said Ms. Goodman.
Ms. Goodman began her first class of Minority Voices in American Literature by having students read two poems. In “Theme for English B,” Langston Hughes addresses his white teacher by saying, “As I learn from you, I guess you learn from me — although you’re older — and white — and somewhat more free.” Richard Olivas’s “I’m sitting in my history class” portrays the perspective of a Chicano-American student on the white, Eurocentric narrative of American history classes. With these poems as well as the rest of the material in her class, Ms. Goodman hopes to highlight the voices of marginalized people within the context of American society. Nearly all of the books her class reads will be written by women. “Minority voices in American literature have to include women, too. It’s not just about ethnicity, but it’s also about gender.” Students will read novels by Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Sandra Cisneros.
and terrible thing.” She looks forward to further discussing the importance of poetry in the novel. Students will also discuss and write about the works of poets such as Maya Angelou and John Keats.
Faith and Doubt, taught by Mrs. Ray, is not a religion class; rather, it is a class in which students will study literature which offers different perspectives on the question “Does life have meaning?” In their summer reading book, “The Things They Carried,” the author, Tim O’Brien, believes that men in the Vietnam War can have hope despite facing experiences that cause them to doubt that life has meaning. Mrs. Ray thinks students can learn from the experiences of characters like these who are tested in their faith.
writing. They will also study the craft of writing with books such as “The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard.
The classes will not just be enjoyed by the students; the teachers chose topics and materials that they are passionate about. “We got to create our dream classes,” said Ms. Goodman.