On Wednesday we had the pleasure of attending our 2020 English Extension 2 Showcase of major works, just before these were submitted for HSC examination. Fellow students, staff and Executive attended the Showcase to support and celebrate the achievements of Alexa Stevens, Mia Childers and Winnie Zhang with their teachers, Mrs Maria Seymour (and Mrs Lucy Sachinis) and Head of English, Mrs Fay Vaitsas.
In English Extension 2, Year 12 students have the opportunity to undertake independent investigation to develop a written composition or a major work. The girls document the process through personal and critical reflection in their Major Work Journal and Reflection Statement.
As each student presented to our group, I truly enjoyed hearing from each girl.
"For a year, we, the girls of English Extension 2, embarked on a literary journey: the creation of a Major Work. Through writer’s block and late, late nights, we soared and struggled, cried and laughed; grew closer, grew up, grew in confidence. It is an honour and a joy to have these works, the pages pressed with our souls, finally completed. Thank you to all and everyone who supported us; we cannot wait for the results (all E4s we hope!) and highly recommend the process to anyone with a dream, a passion, a drive to write." - Mia, Alexa and Winnie.
During the presentation, we learnt that Alexa explored the notion of identity as she crafted an inspired poetry suite, titled Into the Forest, I Go.
Alexa says: "For my work, I wrote a poetry suite called Into the Forest, I Go; split into three sections, the suite followed the evolution of an opinion, explored through juxtaposing the raw, organic Self, and the concrete Self inspired by the constraints of society. My dual settings, Forest and Concrete, were inspired by my love of forest imagery, my Gold Duke of Edinburgh experience in New Zealand, and my adoration of Sylvia Plath’s Moor poems. Unfortunately, this work didn’t just grow overnight, like the mushrooms in my work; it was an exhilarating and difficult process of writing. I went through seven drafts, and many, many rewrites. It was my procrastination, my pride and joy, a piece of my Year 12 life and a work I will always cherish. I would highly recommend anyone who loves to write to consider taking this subject on; you won’t regret it!"
Mia wrote a short story, À la Recherche d’un Passé Perdu (In Search of Lost Past), using the theme of nostalgia, beginning with her roots in Brisbane before moving to Sydney.
Mia says: "My piece, À la Recherche d’un Passé Perdu, (English translation: In Search of Lost Past) focused on a protagonist obsessed with nostalgia and reliving old childhood memories for the sake of comfort and security in simplicity and what is already known. Developing a Hero’s Journey-style arc -- where my narrator, Time, follows Madeleine’s venture into an alternate mirror dimension to recover a lost family heirloom -- was not without its obstacles, but I have highly enjoyed the English Extension 2 course and how it allowed me to blur the boundaries between past and present, fantasy and realism, and mortal and immortal in the emerging genre of magical realism. This major work has been an outlet for creativity, a source of frustration and probably what I’m most proud of achieving in Year 12. I think I speak for all three of us Extension 2 students when I say that we all loved this subject and would highly recommend it to any Year 11 English Extension 1 students considering taking on the challenge."
And finally, Winnie explored the compositional history of Batman’s character with her non-fiction interpretation of truth and Batman’s words.
Mia says: "I recently completed a 6000 word Major Work written in the form of creative nonfiction. The creative nonfiction form of Sleight of Hand explores the writing about real stories and lives in a creative way, like a narrative with a plot. In my Major Work, I explore the real history of the creation of Batman, where there has been some contention regarding who truly created the Batman character and universe. It used to be widely known that a man named Bob Kane was the sole creator of Batman. However, recently in 2015, it was revealed that a second man named Bill Finger had actually been an enormous contributor to the creation of Batman, co-creating the character and the universe. Through the creative process, I have completed many drafts and edits that have aided in improving my Major Work. Doing this Major Work has been super rewarding! For any students who love English, I highly recommend taking English Extension 2 - it is so worth it!"
The satisfaction in pursuing our passion
As we shared the afternoon together, I was struck by how much enjoyment and sense of satisfaction the girls had experienced by pursuing learning in an area of passion.
Each girl embraced the creativity and challenge; using their strengths in the pursuit of their own interests. We heard how the girls tried new things, acted on inspirational ideas, took risks, fell over, got up again and persevered to the end. They explained how they learnt through the process and found a true passion in writing.
I also witnessed a great sense of collaboration and support for each other; a cheering one another on as each friend strove for their own personal best in their writing and craft.
Mia, Alexa and Winnie demonstrated that young people can thrive and flourish, despite the background and challenges of COVID-19 and perhaps give some insights into how this is possible.
Psychologist and author of Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Anxiety in Girls, Dr Lisa Damour explains that despite conditions of intense and ongoing adversity, children and young people can thrive.
She states: "The young people who manage to flourish against all odds are not exceptional or extraordinary. Rather, they are beneficiaries of what psychologist Ann Masten refers to as "ordinary magic"—protective processes that promote competence and healthy adaptation and that happen almost anywhere."
How can this "ordinary magic" happen for our girls and daughters? Dr Damour shares three protective processes that will promote flourishing in our girls, against ongoing challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Connection to loving and capable adults - where children learn best in the context of warm, caring relationships
- Engagement in meaningful work - active engagement in purposeful, enjoyable and engaging learning will buffer the negative effects of stress
- The offer of predictability and control - resilience grows when our girls have ways to know that not everything is beyond their control. Predictable routines, giving choice and a sense of agency all provide a stress buffering structure for our daughters.
I wish you all the best as we sail towards the next weeks of term with great optimism and hope.