Our students are an amazing bunch of 6-12 graders who come from all over New York City to attend our public school. They are innovators and creative thinkers who often don't have the breadth of experiences other school districts may offer them. Our school is a progressive school within a traditional model; we strive to bring project based learning and alternative grading systems to life for our hard working students. We are an all-girls college-bound model and 99% of our seniors graduate and attend college, on average. Our school is a wonderful place to be- a true family.
The first question we’re asked when people find out we teach 11th grade English is always, “what are they reading?” The experience most people have in high school English class is reading a “classic” text that is part of the Western Literary Canon. Most often these texts are written by white males, more often they have not been published in the past twenty years. My students are NYC Public School students who represent sixty different countries and have robust identities. What does the stories we insist they read say about the perspective or story we value in America? Activist Marian Wright Edelman coined the phrase, "you can't be what you can't see." As readers and writers, shouldn't we strive to read the stories, real and imagined, that are reflective of the wide swath of human experience from native peoples to recent immigrants? Our class would like to "explode" the canon of traditional high school literature by reading and researching diverse characters and authors, proposing our findings to a panel of experts from the field of English studies. In order to really dig in to this topic, we need books, books, books. Because many of these books are not the norm for high school English classes, they do not show up with the vendors we are required to use to purchase texts with the school funds.
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