Four of them. We
will improve as readers and writers, reading with emphasisa sense
of timing and dramaand writing with the same. As we progress, we will pick
up as many writing tools as possible, becoming fluent with not just what a given passage says but how. All learning takes
place within a context, and we will aim to expand ours significantly,
both in terms of real world knowledge and useful vocabulary. Finally,
none of our work matters much unless we are transported from time to
time by what we read and think—perhaps even moved to be better, more aesthetically and morally aware people. When words are involved in that uplift,
carry them with youmemorize themor concoct a stir and bustle
of your own words.
Come prepared to
bark at and annotate your texts, laugh with and query each other, and
unlock whatever riddles you stumble upon. Beat the cover of each story,
poem, essay, or play like you would the new skin on an old drum. There
may be nothing particularly new in the humanities, but refreshing variations
on the same steadfast beauty keep coming at us.
discussion-based. Some lecture. Film, music, and the arts will have
a role, as will computers. Expect considerable reading nightly and occasional unannounced
quizzes. I dislike the idea of studying simply to take an
exam; instead, I want to know what you know from day to day, so stay
abreast of your reading and assignments.
When writing an out-of-class essay, please (for your own sake) finish
a first draft of the paper a day or two prior to the due date so you
have time for editing and reflection.
Although the literary essay will be a staple in the course, we will
not limit ourselves to that form. Plan to do research, write imaginative
prose and poetry, give a speech or write a monologue, pen a review or construct a personal
essay, and do various and sundry other forms of writing.
Generally, work turned in late will lose 5%/day, though I have been known to be flexible. I will ask for papers from each student, individually, at
the beginning of the class period (often in electronic form, via Haiku), and will sometimes read titles or
first paragraphs aloud. Make sure your title nails your subject to the
gallery wall. Also, entice the reader right away. No one wants to slumber
on the first page.
keep all assignments returned to you. Also, maintain a hard copy of
any major assignment you turn in and keep the copy until the original
is returned. Hold on to your notes and take them with you to college.
Feel free to approach me or your other writing teachers with your writing. Revise. Reflect. Revise. Know that your best work or your most impressive progression of revisions
may be documented for future Harpeth Hall students, with your permission.
In terms of classroom decorum, a simple rule pertains: we will listen keenly to the individual who has the floor. Talking while a classmate or teacher is speaking is rude. Likewise, dominating classroom discussion day in and day out wears out the ear and the mind of others. Our aim is to learn from each other—particularly from those who are more reticent and retiring when it comes to speaking in public.
Finallyand I know this seems quite trivialbut please keep
the room clean and in order.
I work on PCs and
my Macbook Pro virtually every day. I highly
value the access and flexibility that laptops provide. Nonetheless,
during class I will ask that you employ your laptops only when I request
their use. We may designate a class secretary to take notes—a person who enjoys the role and does it well. The rest of us will take notes the old-fashioned wayin a notebook or in the text itself.
In the past I determined grades by the number of points received during
the semester divided by the number of points possible. It was a simple,
infallible method, or so I thought. In retrospect, this strict, quantitative
policy sometimes led
me to overlook significant conceptual or creative breakthroughs
on the part of students. What value does a great paper
or documentary, speech or poem have? It seems to me that a moment
of excellence amidst
a litter of middling quizzes is sometimes worth more than the weight
of the dross. So, a simple, semi-quantitative approach will suffice for grading. All assignments are worth 100%, but weighty assessments like tests, quests, papers, speeches, and such usually will be given DOUBLE or even TRIPLE weight. I reserve the right to adjust the final score (in either direction) as a consequence of engagement (or lack thereof),
attitude, effort, and moments of demonstrable talent.
what about my grades for college?" The fact is that high
grades alone will not guarantee an acceptance. The so-called selective
schools EXPECT above-average grades, but they also are looking for
something morea talent, a genuine hobby, a fresh way of approaching
life, or—most importantly—a person with integrity and heart.
In addition to looking at your marks, colleges and
want to see what you know, who you are, and what you
can do. A transcript riddled with low marks will raise a red flag, to be sure, but the basis for college decisions resides
a totality of factors, not merely grades. Why do the more "selective"
schools ask for writing samples, essays annotated by a teacher, perceptive
and honest letters of recommendation, and subject-based standardized
tests? They want to see what you know, who you are, what your untapped
potential is, and what communication and computational skills you bring to the table.
Finally, remember that life doesn't always adhere to a
firm schedule. You will probably do your most fulfilling work well
after your college years, and many people don't hit their stride until much
later in life. Look at Mr. Springman. If you must obsess about something, choose not college but instead all of the sweet candy that
Plagiarism is the use of others ideas or words without proper
attribution. If you use someone elses words or specific ideas
in writing, you must cite appropriately (for our purposes, please use
MLA style). Furthermore, your main ideas must reflect your own thinking.
Scholarship should be used to bolster but not direct your arguments.
Remember to arrive at your own conclusions in your own words. As is
with any form of cheating, plagiarism will result in failure. Please click
here to read the English Department's
formal policy on plagiarism. I expect you to keep a signed version of this document in your notebook.
Have fun, be focused and powerful,
and nourish the higher sobriety—the inherent wonder both within and around you.