The English Department seeks to instill in students a lifelong passion for reading, writing, critical thinking, and independent study, while also preparing them for the intellectual challenges of college and beyond. Through the reading of literature, frequent writing assignments, seminar discussions, tutorials, and oral defenses, we help our students develop those skills and habits of mind necessary for continued independent work in the humanities and sciences.
In all Forms, our seminar discussions are explorative, open-minded, and thought-provoking exchanges of ideas. Students are encouraged to develop their own ideas about texts through collaborative discussions and at times formal debates; we value the art of listening and active engagement and encourage the students to take leadership roles in these conversations.
At the center of our curriculum are the study of literature and the development of writing skills, two activities we believe to be interdependent. We regard writing as a creative and intellectually rigorous process in which the student, through composition and repeated revision, generates what he or she wants to say and then discovers increasingly effective and persuasive ways to say it.
For this reason, writing workshops, seminar discussions, and individual tutorials are critical components of our students' education and a standard feature of all English classes. Students learn to write through regular practice and focused one-on-one coaching. By emphasizing class participation and various oral exercises, we hope to communicate to our students the value of responsible argumentation and scholarly collaboration.
The English Department believes strongly that the most effective method of teaching writing occurs in small groups; exhibitions and tutorials serve, therefore, as the centerpieces of our writing curriculum. The process of learning does not stop when students hand in their essays. Throughout their careers at St. Andrew's, students discuss their written work in short orals and longer, more formal defenses known as exhibitions. Orals and exhibitions allow students to refine their speaking skills, demonstrate their mastery of a given text or subject and extend the arguments of their essays. Perhaps most important, they teach students to ask probing and incisive questions about literature, their own writing, and the work of their peers.
The format of these orals varies. Students frequently meet informally with their teachers in individual tutorials to discuss essays and journals. They also discuss their work in more formal settings. At least three times a year, students write essays and discuss them in a 40-60 minute exhibition either one-on-one with their teacher or in groups of two or three. Students read and carefully evaluate one another's essays, discussing the effectiveness of each essay's argument and exploring ways to improve and refine it; they also critique their own essays and make suggestions on how to strengthen and develop their thinking and writing.