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around Campus

­­The Once and Future English Department ...following “the Severn tradition [of ] rigor and invention” On November 19-24, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) held its annual convention in Philadelphia and over a third of the English teachers from Severn’s Upper School were there. This year’s exciting theme “Once and Future Classics: Reading between the Lines” held special appeal, since it had to do with finding new approaches to classic works of literature while focusing on the teaching of contemporary classics as well. It promised to be a celebration of both the traditional and the new in the area of English studies, something that seemed particularly relevant since Professor Tristan Davies from Johns Hopkins University, who visited the department last year as part of its self-study, wrote in his report that the English Department has been successful in following “the Severn tradition [of ] rigor and invention,” and went on to encourage its members to continue to “explore and experiment,” something the NCTE Conference clearly offered an opportunity to do. Severn’s contingent to the conference consisted of Julia Maxey, Upper School English Teacher & Technology Coordinator and a long-time participant in this yearly event;

Amy Pickering, Upper School English; Brian Weber, Upper School English; and Tom Worthington, Chair. All found the trip rewarding and there were several comments about the most interesting experiences. Brian Weber, for instance, described a session that “was designed to inspire educators to teach poetry to high school students from a more holistic approach by immersing them in the flow of the language, by encouraging them to break free from their preconceived notions about poetry, and by enabling them to experience poetry rather than merely reading words on a page.” Amy Pickering, too, attended a poetry session that was of particular value, one that had the interesting title of Drop a Mouse Into a Poem: Embracing Surprise in Reading and Writing Poetry. “This was my favorite! The presenters had a ton of energy, and I took away at least eight different activities I hope to try with the 9th and 10th graders.” While these poetry sessions were clearly a hit, Tom Worthington reported enjoying a very different kind of presentation, one concerned with the teaching of the Old English epic Beowulf. “Seeing how Star Wars movies and the works of Joseph Campbell can be used to help students un-

NCTE convention participants from the Upper School English department, Amy Pickering, Brian Weber, Tom Worthington and Julia Maxey 6

derstand the mythic characters and themes in Beowulf was definitely rewarding. I left the session with several handouts that relate not only to Beowulf, but to other mythic works of literature as well.” Everyone in the group came away from this experience energized by being in the company of so many inventive and dedicated teachers of English, and they are already entertaining dreams of attending next year’s conference in Chicago. The Philadelphia adventure is only the most recent example of the English Department’s peripatetic predilections and followed hard on the heels of the trip Dr. Jackie Baugh and Brian Weber made to the Association of Independent Maryland Schools’ (AIMS) fall Conference held at the Baltimore Convention Center in November, where they presented a session titled, “Tips for Teachers with Templates.” This contact with the broader community of English teachers, along with the recent NCTE trip, is part of the department’s long-term strategy to accomplish what Professor Davies considered the ultimate goal: “to continue to uphold the department’s tradition of clarity, communication and inventive thinking.”

JHU Excellence in Teaching award winning Professor Tristan Davies counseled the Upper School English department on curriculum development

winter bridge 2010  
winter bridge 2010