Central to the work of the English Department is an unswerving commitment to quality - for teachers and students.
The department seeks to strengthen students' imaginative, aesthetic and intellectual faculties by developing their capacity to understand and appreciate a range of literature from classics to contemporary. Students are encouraged to ask the important questions about the human experience and to make responsible judgments about the art it produces. For students who read widely and well, learning will be life-long and invigorating.
Equally, students should perceive the strength, grace and flexibility of the English language and develop facility in writing, not only as a tool basic to all learning, but as a means of self expression that is thorough, precise and convincing. Instruction in writing stresses the malleability of the language, methods of development and design responsive to content, purpose and occasion.
New Trier promotes an atmosphere of free inquiry and mutual respect in which students are encouraged to take risks, as they develop their abilities to think logically and critically and work to acquire the habits of productive scholarship.
The English Department has established for students essential understandings in six areas.
- Writing: effective writing, which communicates clearly to the intended audience and fulfills its specific purpose, provides a means of discovery, of communication, of persuasion, and of creative expression.
- Reading: reading texts critically - analyzing the author's purpose, exploring the relationship between a work's form and meaning, and connecting the work to ideas outside the text - improves the reader's comprehension, thinking, and writing.
- Speaking and Listening: contributing meaningfully to a democratic society requires the capacity to listen critically and analytically, to speak convincingly, and to use those skills to enrich the understanding and decision-making of groups small and large.
- Literature: literature, in all its forms, enhances our understanding of human experience and invites us to grapple with complex questions about the human condition. Literature transmits ideas, reflects cultural values, and expresses the human imagination. Equally important, it brings enrichment and joy. As students interpret and evaluate literature, they wrestle with multiple perspectives as well as relate ideas across cultures and eras. The study of literature includes understanding the structure and intent of written works ranging from a short poem to a long, complex novel to a film. By exploring and approaching an author's themes and artistry, students connect literature to their own lives and begin to understand what it means to be human.
- Language: knowledge of the English language - its evolution, rhetorical devices, and grammatical conventions - promotes a respect for the value of thoughtful and articulate communication and interaction. A fundamental requirement for effective involvement in a diverse society is the capacity to recognize the power of language. A knowledge of common elements within this language enables us to understand communications from the variety of media - print and electronic - available in today's world. By studying language, students will be able to think and communicate more precisely and purposefully.
- Research: acquiring habits of productive scholarship and employing strategies of effective inquiry will enable individuals to become independent learners and continue learning beyond the years of formal education. To be successful in school and career, individuals use a wide variety of resources (written, visual, and electronic). Successful researchers frame questions for inquiry, identify and organize relevant information, and present it effectively in a variety of formats. Developing these skills across disciplines is critical to becoming an independent and lifelong learner.
In its evaluation of the department, the North Central Accreditation team observed, "If any group at New Trier epitomizes the school motto, 'To commit minds to inquiry, hearts to compassion, and lives to the service of mankind,' it is the English Department."
Four years of English are required of students for graduation. English courses are offered at different ability levels, with a common core of learning outcomes for each year. Literature, composition, and the study and use of language are integral to every course. Emphasis is placed upon the higher order thinking skills and the application of language arts skills in a variety of contexts.
- literature curriculum in all genres which focuses on the study of whole works, including Homer and Shakespeare in the freshman year; Dickens, Salinger, Golding, Bronte, and Shakespeare in the sophomore year; Hawthorne, Thoreau, Emerson, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Arthur Miller in the junior year; and Sophocles, Doestoevsky, Shakespeare, Hardy, Conrad, Camus, and Beckett in the senior year;
- core of required experiences in language, literature, writing and speaking in every course, plus extensive options chosen by teachers;
- Portfolio Project (Freshman- Sophomore) which promotes a cohesive writing curriculum within year groups and between years;
- interdisciplinary electives in freshman year (English-World History) and junior year (AIS Program);
- • specialized senior courses in Great Books, humanities, mythology, literature and psychology, writing seminars, creative writing, global studies, literature and film, and good and evil in literature;
- sequential honors program that leads to Advanced Placement English courses in the junior and senior years;
- sequence of courses emphasizing the development of fundamental skills;
- enrichment courses in journalism and creative writing;
- English Language Learning (ELL) courses prior to mainstreaming;
- course curricula that are responsive to change through faculty committees which formulate, review and evaluate;
- Reading and Writing Center integral to the composition program, directed and staffed by English teachers with assistance from trained student tutors;
- Reading Program offering collaborative-teaching outreach services in the regular English courses and support courses for freshman and sophomores;
- Journalism program that features The Focus (Freshmen), The Journal (Sophomore), The News , The Examiner , and an on-line edition.
Juniors nominated by their teachers participate in the National Council of Teachers of English writing competition. For seniors, writing scholarships draw many talented entrants. New Trier ranks first in the Midwest Region with over 260 students taking the Advanced Placement examinations in language and composition and in literature and composition respectively, producing honors-level scores that place New Trier among the top schools in the nation and the world.
Several award-winning student publications and activities are centered in the English Department. Editors and staff of the New Trier News and the Examiner are regularly recognized for their outstanding work and receive their training in the year-long journalism course. Freshman and sophomore students have the opportunity to write for the Freshman Focus and the Sophomore Journal . Logos , the quarterly literary journal, offers students with interests in writing an opportunity for publication. Student tutors operate in the Reading and Writing Center under the direction of English faculty and offer support for students working on reading skills development and on writing assignments from all departments.
Students' talents are complemented by the imagination, professional expertise and dedication of the English Department faculty.