At St. Francis, English is an intimate, collaborative
and creative practice.
Inside the English classroom, students’ desks are ranged in circles or their chairs around a seminar table. For the 10 months of the academic year, English teachers and students are members of a small community in which each student’s intellectual, aesthetic and personal discoveries are elicited. The heart of English teachers’ work at St. Francis is to arrange for, encourage, model, coach, and, when necessary, insist on thoughtful expression in individual voices. The heart of students’ work in English is a variety of projects and texts leading a variety of individuals to the pleasures of literacy and of confident, competent self-expression; the heart of students’ work is also collegial, as in workshops and seminars they experience the whole as greater than a sum of parts, taking part in a searching, open-minded, many-voiced conversation.
Outside the classroom, our communal dialogue begins on the first day of school, when every member of the school community – students, faculty, and staff – shares his or her response to the all-school summer reading book. That discussion continues throughout the year at every Morning Meeting, which ends with a student or staff member reading a poem of his or her choosing. During the Showcase of the Spoken Word in the spring, student writing in a variety of genres and formats is performed, typically to sell-out crowds. The communal conversation comes to a close at the end of the year, with the publication of an ambitious student literary magazine and the presentation of staff-written speeches about each graduating senior.The collective creative process also involves extracurricular activities, like the songwriting, drama and debate clubs, and independent creative projects, such as student-created mix tapes, chapbooks and creative-writing Senior Projects.
At St. Francis, we believe that to take the time, effort, and care to consider not only what we say but how we say it, and to pay close, careful attention – whether as participants in a revision workshop, readers of a monumental poem, or audience members at a spoken-word performance – to the words of others are not only indispensable human responsibilities but also educated pleasures no one should have to live without.