Our Goals
Four of them. We will improve as readers and writers, reading with emphasis—a sense of timing and drama—and 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 you—memorize them—or concoct a stir and bustle of your own words.

Using Books
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.

Policies and Methods
Largely 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.

Please 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.

Finally—and I know this seems quite trivial—but please keep the room clean and in order.



Computers
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 way—in a notebook or in the text itself.

Grades
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.

"But 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 more—a 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 employers literally 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 in 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 this life affords.

Plagiarism
Plagiarism is the use of others’ ideas or words without proper attribution. If you use someone else’s 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 the case 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.

The Last Word
Have fun, be focused and powerful, and nourish the higher sobriety—the inherent wonder both within and around you.








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