Don’t judge each day by the harvest that you reap, but by the seeds that you plant. —R.L. Stevenson
On February 6, Engelhard Hall will be graced with the presence of Colum McCann and David Blight. The two authors will engage in an interdisciplinary conversation about history and literature. This once-in-a-lifetime experience will be one of the biggest events that we will experience this year, and we encourage alumni, past and present parents, former faculty, and Trustees to join us for this event.
For St. Andrew’s students, this culminating experience is one for which they have been preparing for months. Through reading, and re-reading, McCann’s TransAtlantic, students have been doing the intense work of preparing for this visit by deeply analyzing McCann’s work. After reading TransAtlantic this summer, students tackled the work again through a microscopic lens in their English classes, parsing through the dense literary text. Juniors and seniors wrote papers on the novel and then engaged in oral exhibitions.
The exhibition process is a crucial part of the St. Andrew’s education. During the drafting process of their papers, students work closely and inductively with the language in the text as they construct a sophisticated, cohesive, and compelling argument. They then meet in groups of two or three with their teacher to discuss, put pressure on, reconsider, and refine their arguments. Students remain open to feedback and embrace the excitement of extending their thinking even further. This process is rigorous as well as rewarding, for students to understand, enact, and experience the fun of deep and authentic scholarly conversation and collaboration. With a generosity of spirit, students also practice how to give feedback that opens up thinking and allows for everyone at the seminar table to learn from each other.
Students are guided by their teacher, an artist in their own right, nudging them with questions that open up new lines of thinking and understanding. Sitting in on Dean of Teaching & Learning Elizabeth Roach’s English class made it evident that she was hovering over McCann’s writing like a treasure hunter over a map, watching students explore and discover the limitless nuances of McCann’s writing, acknowledging points of interest and deftly steering them to connections that were previously unseen. Students' excitement and joy was evident as they traversed through these layers of learning, discovering their own epiphanies along the way.
In what will prove to be the ultimate exhibition, St. Andrew’s students will sit in on McCann and Blight’s conversation next week on Engelhard Stage where they will certainly be a highly prepared and inquisitive audience. Having done the authentic work of delving deeply into the material, and taking ownership of their own understanding and learning, these Saints will be well-equipped to ask the tough questions of these scholarly giants. McCann and Blight’s sense of grace and generosity in sharing this conversation with our community will widen the lens of understanding for us all through this most human of connections—art & education—and will surely reverberate through all of our psyche’s for years to come.
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