The end of the semester brings out the even more reflective side of me. I find myself analyzing my practice and especially my pedagogy and I’m really struggling with the idea of the English classroom and curriculum.

I was blessed to teach an amazing group of grade 12 university level students this past semester. Over the course of the semester, I have been wondering if there was more I could have done to help prepare them for post secondary. What I keep coming back to is a discussion the class had in September. I asked them how many are planning on taking English in post secondary and only 1 out of 26 are even considering taking an English course let alone choosing it to be their major! So why is it that we force these bright students to take a literature based course that potentially has very little bearing on what they will be doing next year? If I put myself in their shoes and was forced to take a grade 12 math course, I would not have gotten into university…

I’m not advocating that we should get rid of the English discipline, but I think we need to revisit our concept for how and what we teach. I really think we need to personalize English classes for our current learners.

One way I think we could add the personalized touch to the university level is to find out what our students are planning on studying in post secondary. We then group them based on their post secondary aspirations and ask them to research proper writing techniques for their respective discipline and prepare a seminar for the class. Next, on a bi-weekly basis, we ask them to research current articles or read blogs from accredited sources or experts in their chosen field. Finally, we ask them to blog about their reading. We are still encouraging critical thinking but we are engaging them in their future field of study rather than focusing on so much critical analysis of literature.

I know this is a radical way of looking at an English class, but I keep coming back to the idea of personalization and that I can do more to help prepare, engage and motivate my students for the future. I would love to hear your thoughts.

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3 thoughts on “The Traditional English Class

  1. As someone who has taught junior/intermediate ‘English’ in the elementary setting, I’m thankful that I don’t have the expectation of teaching ‘literature’. I share your frustration with the archaic approaches in secondary. Sometimes I wonder if the Communications Tech class is more about literacy than English.

    I think our English learning needs to be simplified in this way: We deconstruct meaning from texts, and we construct meaning by creating texts.

  2. I’ve struggled with those thoughts too in the science classes (of course) about ‘preparing’ students for the next steps. When the reality is that few of them will be majors in the course that we were in. (Be it physics, biology etc.. )

    I’ve started to think that we need more of a cross discipline, or multi disciplinary focus, and that as you say, have students really dig into the field of their interest. If they are intersested in a certain area, they can use all of the high school ‘subjects’ as lenses with wiith to explore more in depth.

    As a random example, if a student is interested in the restaurant biz, all of their math, english, sciece etc.. can focus on the needs of that sector. I know it wouldn’t be for every student, especially at the HS level, and that we sort of have things like that now (SHSM) but I really think its worth exploring deeper.

  3. I work daily to link literature class and life as well. But I am not sure everything we read must invoke the college major (which, by the way, changes for at least 50% of them after 1 year). I am looking to build the better physicist, the inspired engineer, the compassionate programmer… I am a better literature teacher BECAUSE of the critical mass of high school physics, algebra, history, trig, latin, french that somehow gelled in college into a vision of the world I lived in and the world I was going to create. Specialization is for later. High school is time for input, input, input. I am pushing creative projects with other disciplines too, but I cannot believe that the shared study of literature would be anything other than critical for the successful study of almost any chosen field in college.

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