When asked why we teach English, we are often expected to respond with something as simple as ‘I love books’… this answer is, of course, true!
But it’s so much more than that; English is so much more than loving books and seeing it in this way can often deter students who find reading a struggle. English, at Westonbirt, is celebrated as a gateway into the world. There aren’t many other subjects that allow you to look at history, politics, science, sport, fashion, food and travel all at once!
We celebrate how literature and language has transformed ages; how it transcends time and has and will continue to change minds and lives. English is a subject that has been, and I believe always will be, incredibly respected and valuable. We teach children to write; to communicate their thoughts and ideas into stories and essays and speeches that could travel and shape the world. We teach them to read; to understand other people’s perspectives and learn more about society. We teach them to imagine new and better worlds, to shape the way they speak to make the most impact, to stretch the way they think and open their minds to enable them to understand and empathise with anyone.
At Westonbirt, we value the creativity, the open-mindedness and the individualised nature of English. We aim to use the subject to academically and personally challenge our students. There aren’t many moments that we value more than when a student in our lesson starts to see the world differently because of the poem they’re reading or because of another student’s interpretation of the in-class novel. I think everyone can understand why English is more than loving books; but loving books is at our core and something we strive to encourage in even our most book-shy.
We see and understand that books (both fiction and non-fiction) can be both weapon and shield; friend and foe; molehill and mountain and every lesson we aim to challenge our students to tackle not just the academic gains from the subject but also the personal. I have to end with one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite novels (a classic, many of you will agree!) that I think summarises best what studying English teaches students: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird