Lots to read, see and hear—controversy and all!June 2, 2023
The College’s English classes are always buzzing and busy with a variety of learning experiences and these past few weeks have been no exception!
Year 11 Tertiary classes have been busy reading and analysing the Merchant of Venice, a play written in 1596 by William Shakespeare. Some classes began their study of the play by creating “Silent Scenes,” which saw students work in groups to dramatically reflect concepts and ideas. Thinking “outside the box” was required for this task as the scenes were performed in silence and clear physical gestures and actions were key for success.
This week, all Year 10 students were lucky to experience a live performance “International Anthems.” The performance exposed students to a wide variety of Canonical poems from around the world and was an engaging and thought-provoking performance. It is interesting to note that for literature to be considered part of the Literary Canon it should contain themes that “last the test of time” and are considered essential for all. The Literary Canon can be controversial, and our parents are encouraged to read this very informative article. https://theboar.org/2018/08/the-literary-canon-over-the-years/
Currently in class, Year 10 students are looking at Canonical texts and persuading their peers that their choice of text is the BEST option! This task requires students to consider and analyze their choice and its place in our modern world.
Creative writing is an aspect of the English course that is loved by many students! Recently both 11T and Year 9 have submitted creative writing assessment pieces. Year 9 have been focusing on Transformation and worked hard on reimagining Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day.” Year 11 has been focusing on creating Non-Linear Narratives and experimenting with writing Vignettes. (Short piece of writing that explores a brief incident / episode.) Some examples are published below.
Change on Earth – by Charlize S
My eyes shot open. I gasped for air, grasped the sheets of my now drenched-in-sweat bed. Droplets running down my face. My eyes roam the small, dull room. The morning sun was already heating it up. A dream caused me to wake. A dream where it had rained. The sound of droplets growing heavier each second, the sky turning grey and cold, rumbling, rumbling, rumbling. What is known as “clouds” moved ferociously overhead. It had been 5,345 days since the last storm. Since then, we’ve been in drought. I was young, around 3, I do not remember. My parents say it was sad. Like they knew it would be the last ever. It sprinkled. A last cry for help. And then stopped, and never came back.
“Quiet down class, quiet down.” Hushed the teacher. The door flies open. A short, bright orange haired boy enters through the doorway. His hair is the same color as the forever blazing sun, and his face red as if it was stained with sunburn. Carrying the same, old notebook in his hand, one that never seems to leave his sight. He stumbled through the class, to the empty seat next to mine.
“Hey, Margot, have you heard the news?” whispered the boy.
“No, what is it Matthew?” I leaned in closer.
“The rain…” he paused to take a quick glance at the teacher, before continuing, “scientists found a way to make it come back.”
My eyes lit up. “How can it be? Where’d you find-”
“Margot! Since whatever you’re saying seems so important, why don’t you share with the class?” The teacher screamed as she hit her ruler against the chalk board.
I turn to Matthew, who gives a nod of approval. I take a breath and exclaim,
“The rain is coming back. Scientists.. found a way.”
Panicked looks arise from the classroom.
Questions flood from each classmate.
“They can’t think that will make anything better?”
“The rain? No.. why would they torture us with that again?”
Mathew begins, “you guys don’t understand, the rain is good!” he says hopefully.
“Good? The rain?” scoffs our class bully, Jax. “Everyone knows the rain is bad. That’s why it’s gone.”
The bell rings for break, and as the class begins leaving Matthew and I stumble past Jax and out the door. We walk through the hallway with our heads down, our mind only on one thing.
“Oi, wait up, will you?” yells Jax from down the hall. Our pace quickens.
“Tell me why you think the rain is good!” huffs Jax as he reaches us, catching his breath.
Matthew and I pause. Matthew sighs, and grabs Jax and I’s hand, dragging us outside where it was quiet.
“Take a look.” Matthew orders, as he turns the pages of his notebook. The pages display a colorful, lively planet. One where animals roamed freely, plants flourished, and structures known as ‘trees’ canopy over the green earth floor. I had never seen anything like it before. I know, because of my parents, that the earth once looked something like that, but any proof was destroyed, disappeared, along with the rain.
“It’s beautiful, but you’re wrong. The rain disappeared for a reason, the plants were poisonous, they say. Everything is better without the rain, everyone knows that!”
“That’s what they want you to think, to think that everything’s fine, that spending so much money on chemically made food is normal, but it isn’t. The world with plants and animals is so gorgeous, lively, much better than eternal drought!” bursts Matthew. I continue for him,
“And the rain, with it back, the change will be worth it.”
Tears swell through Jax’s eyes. He looked at his feet, and murmured quietly, “what if that’s it? The change that will influence everything. What if that’s the problem?”
And with that, the atmosphere altered. We all felt it. The air was moister, the smell of dust and warmth changed into something that was almost indescribable, like the smell of the lake on a hot summer day, and the sky darkened. Thick black clouds grew overhead. And like that, the pouring started. droplets of rain starting small and growing heavier. The rumbling of the clouds, just like from my dream. It all felt so familiar. Jax ran back inside in fear, but Matthew and I danced. We danced in the rain, soaked it into our skin, and made every second worth it.
“20 years ago, I was afraid of the rain. Everything about it. I thought it would worsen how we’d learnt to live without it.”
A familiar voice speaks from the center of the town, standing on a stage over a large crowd. I draw towards it.
“A girl in my class loved the rain. She would tell me about the great things that came with it, like beautiful plants, and animals, but most importantly a healthy earth. Back then, I didn’t believe her. But now, 20 years later, I see she was right. The rain brought happiness. Change for the better.”
I smiled from the back of the crowd at Jax, as the rain began once again.
The Force – by Mackenzie T
“I hate this place” Margo muttered as a snowflake landed softly on her nose, causing her to shiver.
Brenton and Izzy gave her an agreeing nod, “Don’t we all?”.
Margo, Brenton, and Izzy were best friends and had been since birth. They had grown up together, spending every spare minute in each other’s company, before school, after school, weekends, school holidays, they were tight.
But after the sun got too close to the earth, everybody was forced to move to Neptune in waves. Many friendships and families got separated, including Margo’s family. The Force had taken Margo’s parents, leaving her without them, and she missed them, terribly. The Force were sending people away, they would send people to Neptune regardless of their protesting. Most people said the Force had no heart; Margo would agree. Margo wished and hoped she could go back to earth and find her dear parents, she knew her dream wouldn’t come true.
Brenton yelled “At least it’s your birthday is soon.”
Izzy smiled sweetly at Margo “Yea” she said, sounding excited.
Margo gave a blank stare, “For my birthday, I wish for my parents” she whispered towards the sky.
It was near 9pm and the snow was piled up outside, making huge mounds against the sides of houses. Margo was getting ready for bed; she was trying her best to block out all the sad thoughts in her head. Margo never went to bed this early; it had made her caretakers worried. Margo’s care takers were two strange middle-aged men, Steve, and Liam. Steve and Liam had wanted to start a family after the Earth disaster as a new beginning. When Margo was chosen, she was upset but glad she would have a place to stay. Liam and Steve were very different from Margo’s parents. They weren’t as caring or loving, they tried, but it wasn’t the same. As Margo laid on her soft bed, she couldn’t help but think about her parents again, her loving parents.
Margo woke suddenly in the middle of the night due to a huge “BANG.”
It was Brenton, loudly knocking on the window. “Hurry up, pack your bag Margo” Margo gave a blank stare, “huh?” she whispered. She didn’t want to wake up Liam and Steve from their deep sleep. “Hurry up” Brenton whispered in an angry tone. Margo hurriedly stumbled out of her bed; she packed as much as she could in her pink duffle bag then walked slowly towards the open window. She climbed out and ran as fast as she could trying to keep up with Brenton. Margo pulled on Brenton’s arm “where are we going” she yelled confused. “I’m getting us out of here” Brenton started running even faster, Margo followed in hesitation.
After what felt like an hour of running. Brenton ducked behind a futuristic piece of material. “Where are we?” Margo asked. “look” Brenton whispered. As Margo looked at her surroundings she saw ships, planes, food, supplies, water. Everything she could have ever wanted. Before she could ask questions, Brenton grabbed her hand. He raced towards a plane, Margo followed and climbed in after him. Brenton looked behind his shoulder “Force” he screamed. He jumped onto the plane, slamming the door behind him. Margo breathed heavily in a panic as Brenton attempted to comfort her. They both stayed silent, not knowing what to say, Brenton said “We will be on earth by morning”.
When Margo awoke, she felt warmth on her skin and saw bright light outside the one small window next to her. As she approached Brenton, he looked happy, which was something Margo hadn’t seen in Months.
“I can’t believe we’re here, thank you.” Margo said. Before Brenton could respond, he quickly pulled away from the small window and opened the door. As Margo and Brenton walked outside, the heat was shocking and unexpected, the hot concrete was blinding, and it was difficult to breathe. The buildings in front of them were burnt and destroyed, sticks were the only remaining of the lush trees that once created a shaded canopy over the city, the garden beds were dry dirt and where the grass once lay was brown and cracked ground. Margo and Brenton had to move quickly; the Force were just as present here on Earth as they were on Neptune. An older poorly kept man came out from behind a damaged building, “Hello, are you ok” Margo asked, thinking he may need help.
Margo and Brenton backed away. Margo felt regret, panicked. She knew man was right, they had seen it for themselves.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find your parents then get you out of here, it will be ok” Brenton said looking at Margo’s panicked face, he sounded so sure, but Margot saw a hint of fear in his bright blue eyes.
Brenton started franticly looking for some sort of vehicle to drive to Margo’s parents’ house, “what about a motorbike Margo?” Brenton suggested.
“No Brenton, what about a van? We’ll be safer in a van” Margo exclaimed proudly, pointing at an old blue Honda van with a faded roof, Brenton nodded in hesitation but agreed “Sure” he said with a shrug of his shoulders.
Brenton kicked open the door and got in the driver’s seat, “Do you know how to drive Brenton?” Margo had never known Brenton to get behind the wheel in the all the years she had known him, he replied “No” unbothered about this small detail, the keys were in the ignition, he started the car and lurched away from the curb. Margo looked out the window to distract herself from Brenton’s horrible driving.
They had passed through the city and were driving past the shopping mall where her and her friends used to hang out on the weekends All she could see was fire and Force soldiers marching across the concrete car park, it was an eerie sight to see something familiar look so different. Margo debated whether her parents were even still alive or if her house was still standing, these thoughts were intrusive and painful.
Brenton kept driving erratically, Margo knew where they were going, their school. The school now consisted of a crumbled building, burnt grass and a bent piece of metal that used to be the sign saying, “Westfield high school”. Brenton and Margo looked at each other, Margot’s house wasn’t far from the school. As Brenton and Margo got closer to the house, Margo began to feel nauseous, her anxiety was through the roof. A million thoughts going through her head, but there was still a small slither of hope. As they pulled up in the driveway of her childhood home, Margo’s heart sank. The house was gone, the foundations still smoldering. Margo fell out of the car crying while Brenton tried his best to comfort her and hold her back from searing heat “They’re gone” Margo’s screams pierced the air. Brenton took Margo’s hand and dragged her behind the old tin shed that was still standing, he had heard the familiar sounds of the Force soldiers’ boots on the concrete. “We have to go” Brenton said quietly, he looked over his shoulder “Margot, we have to go” he whispered, more urgently this time. As Margot turned around, she saw forced soldiers scattered all over the backyard of her house. “They have weapons” Brenton whispered in Margo’s ear.
“Put your hands up” the force soldiers yelled.
They slowly raised their hands, they knew they couldn’t escape. But Brenton yelled “Run!!”. They attempted to run into the neighbor’s yard, but the soldiers were fast and strong, they had them cornered, it was over, this time anyway.
“You’re going back to Neptune” the force soldiers said proud.
Planting a Seed – by Katie B
That’s what I want to say.
“What you’re saying is wrong, ignorant, and insulting.”
Is what I’ve never said.
I’m sitting in a classroom. The crappy plastic chair is hurting my back. The lights are bright, I can’t concentrate properly. The teacher left a couple of minutes ago, to go talk to someone or other, and as usual the class erupted into conversation. Whatever work we are supposed to be completing has slipped our minds and conversation has turned. It always shocks me how ignorant my peers can be, time after time they say something with either no idea or no care that they are insulting an entire group of people. Unfortunately, in this room, I am the only one who cares. Their words fill my mind, all other sounds drowned out by this conversation. Laughter echoes inside my skull.
In my head are a thousand ways I could respond to their idiocy, but my mouth stays shut. If I open it, I will be one fighting against an army, no one will back me up. Even the teacher, if she comes back, will only make some vague comment about accepting people’s beliefs, before turning back to her monotonous drone of a lesson. I would be drowned out, nothing I could say would make any difference anyway. They’d cut me off, laugh at me and I’d go red, humiliated. One girl cannot fight an army, I am safe behind my mask.
As they talk, shame builds up in my chest, strangling not only my other emotions but my thoughts. All that’s left is the voice that says
“You’re pathetic. If you can’t speak out about the thing that’s more important to you than anything else, what use are you?”
I tap my foot on the floor, a vessel of escape for the pain building up in my chest. Just a few more minutes. A few more minutes and the teacher will be back, the chatter will cease, and I’ll be able to move forward, almost forgetting this whole thing had ever happened. Almost.
The First Fruit
My throat closes. That’s what happens each time I try to speak out. Some instinct possesses my body and prevents me from speaking. It’s something designed to protect me, I think. A paralysing fear that is supposed to stop me from getting myself into a situation that I can’t control. This time it’s my friends. They just have no idea what they’re saying, and I’m the only one who could tell them. But my tongue is lead in my mouth.
As they keep talking, my heart starts beating, preparing me for the internal battle to follow. I could say something, I certainly seem to be the person positioned to do it. But I wouldn’t know what to say. What if it all came out muddled, and they don’t understand what I’m trying to say?
I feel sick, there’s a deep, bitter feeling in my stomach. I notice my finger is tapping against my leg, my body’s unconscious attempt to relieve the tension pressing against my insides. The world is buzzing, all the background noise is a blur, and my eyes won’t focus. I can hear each one of my friends chuckle though, as they unknowingly tear apart everything that is important to me. And each one of my thoughts, too. Clashing as they both tell me I can’t do it or I’m a failure for not trying. What could I even do? They won’t want to listen; they’ll stop me before I can even explain myself. But when I turn away without trying, there will be that disgusting sense of failure, which grows stronger and stronger with each situation like this. I feel dizzy, I’m pretty sure if I tried to eat anything at the moment, I would throw up. My friends haven’t noticed anything though, haven’t noticed that I’m not eating, or that I’m not joining in the conversation, my face remains a mask. It’ll be over soon; I will have lost my opportunity to say anything, and I’ll be filled with the usual sense of regret mixed with relief.
I close my eyes. Just for a second, pushing away all the dominating thoughts and emotions, trying to grasp a moment’s peace. And in that moment, where I push everything else away, I hear a new voice. A gentle one, it only whispers. But it tells me something I haven’t heard before. I’m not alone, I have everything I need to say what I want to say. So, in that moment, before my heart starts racing again, I open my mouth.
It’s strange, this time people want to listen to me. Not a lot of people, but people who think what I have to say is valuable. I’ve removed the mask, no longer hiding from other people’s opinions. I still feel nervous, I hear the voice that says people won’t understand me, won’t listen. But it’s quieter now. I hear the gentle voice. My heart flutters, but more in anticipation than fear. Sometimes my throat still closes a bit, but I shut my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and regain control of myself.
I hear people whispering, I can discern a few words here or there, some are talking about me, some are just talking about their breakfast.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t really prepared for what I’m going to say, a couple of thoughts but I’ve learnt it usually works better if I don’t overthink it too much. It’ll be ok, I am not alone, and life isn’t as “live or die” as I used to think. This is a chance for me to grow. If it teaches people something, that’s great but if it doesn’t, I’ve still had an opportunity to learn.
I’ve come to understand that I’m not fighting a war, I’m just picking fruit. Some of it I can reach, and as I grow, I can reach more and more. If I can’t reach it, maybe later someone else will come along who can pick it. Huh, that’s good. I think that’s what I’ll tell them today. I walk forward, my hand still tapping against my leg, and step up to the front.
I have composed a series of three vignettes that I believe would be excellent editions to your SFXC Teen Lit fiction anthology, My World. They explore the conflict of a young girl as she struggles to defend her faith. This is a relatable theme for many young people who feel that their peers do not agree with, or even respect their beliefs. The vignettes respond to the stimulus depicting the two masks by showing the narrator slowly moving out from hiding behind a metaphorical mask. She learns to speak out for what she believes is right and share with the world who she really is, conquering her fear of failing or being rejected.
The first vignette displays the feeling of fear and hopelessness displayed by the narrator as she holds back from speaking out. It uses imagery such as the ‘chair hurting my back” and “monotones drone” to create a tone of futility. Metaphors such as “fighting an army”, “strangling… my thoughts”, and “drowned out” serve to communicate the feelings of the narrator. The phrase “safe behind my mask” serving to both directly link to the stimulus and the theme, as well as creating the mask as a motif for the series.
The second vignette explores the conflict between fear and hope, with the narrator deciding whether or not she can communicate to her friends the impact their words are having on her. The motif of the voices in her head is particularly significant in this vignette because they show the contrast of “dominating” fear and “gentle” hope. The imagery of her “quickened heart” and “tension pressing” lead the reader to feel the same emotions she is experiencing, also allowing them to feel the “peace” when those emotions are “pushed away”.
The tone of the third vignette is reflective. The narrator compares how she feels now with how she used to feel with phrases such as “it’s strange, this time…” and “I still hear the voice…but it’s quieter now”. The reader notes how she has mastered her anxiety and taught herself self-control as she thinks, carefree, about how she hasn’t “really prepared for what I’m going to say” noting that “it usually works better if I don’t overthink it too much”. After the “paralysing fear” the narrator has been feeling in the last two vignettes, the reader feels refreshed with the peace and confidence she now has.
The theme of appearance versus reality is evident through two different aspects of the text. The first is the way that the narrator goes from being “safe behind [her] mask” to “no longer hiding from other people’s opinions”. The way she appears, and the way other people see her is not who she is in reality. As she learns to stop pretending and speak up, she becomes her true self.
These vignettes use a number of different techniques to create meaning, helping them connect with an audience of teenagers and young adults. There are two ways they achieve this. The first is by narrating an issue that is extremely relevant to many young people, exploring how difficult it is to speak out against social norms. The other thing that makes it relatable is the setting. Whilst each piece is set in a different place, the classroom and sitting with friends are situations that most young people are familiar with. Another stylistic choice was to keep the exterior details vague, focusing just on the immediate thoughts of the narrator. This means that the reader is more likely to identify with the feelings experienced by the narrator.
For the above reasons, I believe this suite of vignettes would be a worthy addition to My World. Thank you for taking the time to read them.
From Katie B
Remember the Day – by Mae W
“Do the scientists know? Will it happen today, will it?”
“Look; see for yourself!”
I get shoved against the wall by the children rushing to join the crowd, wanting to peer out through the window to have a glimpse at the clouds. What a surprise, It’s sunny. It has been sunny for twenty-one years; everyday filled from one end to the other with hot, burning sun. This was the way life was on the planet Mars. It’s stupid to think that that cycle will just suddenly change. Just because a new kid from the most recent planet relocation shares information about the rain, doesn’t mean that it’s true! All Margot ever does is either complain about leaving Earth or sulk in a corner. It’s pathetic, she isn’t the only one who wants to see the rain. What about us? The kids who haven’t even see it! She’s the lucky one.
The excitement on the kid’s faces turn to disappointment. The walm sun on there skin, not a raincloud in sight. The chattering slowly died off as they look around the classroom confused and unimpressed, waiting for an explanation. I couldn’t help myself; the silence was interrupted by a giggle from the back of the classroom.
“Wow I’m in shock! Is that what I think it is? More sun! How delightful.” I say sarcastically, rolling my eyes.
“Oh, shut your mouth, William!” a kid yells from the group.
“Look at yourselves! All squished together, believing in someone who you probably didn’t even know existed until now. The rain isn’t here, you all know its not coming for another five years! You need to stop ignoring the facts.”
The class went dead silent, quickly shifting their attention to Margot for a response. Nothing.
“See! She is just spiting out lies for our attention. How can you not see that?”
Tears filled Margot’s eyes. She stands up and runs out the door, almost bumping into the teacher walking in. I feel horrible, but she deserves it! She can’t get away with giving my classmates and friends false hope. Someone must put her in her place. The teacher gives me a cold look as he takes a seat at his desk. He calls over a group of three girls, whispering to them before they walk out of the classroom. Whatever, I think to myself. I’m getting comfy in my seat until I hear a strong voice.
“William, principal’s office now.”
I look up to see my teacher towering over my desk. I didn’t bother arguing, I knew that what I did was wrong. I pick up my bag and stand up, I could feel all eyes on me. How can I love and hate the attention? I think to myself, walking out of the classroom. I turn the corner to see the group of girls that were sent out. As I get closer, I notice that they are surrounding another kid, shoving them into a gardening room. Is that… Margot? I think to myself, confused. Aren’t they supposed to be comforting her? I hear their whispering get louder and louder until they bolt off down the hall. I hurry to the room’s door, quickly sliding it open. Peering in, it looked like a maze. Walls of vines and tall thriving plants, with the shine from the open sunroof softy hitting my face. BANG! My attention shifts to the closet in the far-left corner. I run over and unlock it. CRASH. Sharp gardening tools fly out. As well as Margot, who slowly pulls herself out from the floor of the closet.
“Thanks” Margot says, slowly looking up.
As our eyes meet her expression quicky changes. “Oh, it’s you.”
“Yeah… hey! Oh, your bleeding, are you okay?”, I see a line of blood dripping from Margot’s arm, soaking into her shirt. I reach into my bag and pull out a band aid, quicky handing it to her. A confused smile came over her.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Margot whispers as she sticks the band-aid on.
The silence is loud as we both take a seat.
“Why are you being so kind, William? I thought you hated me.”
“What? I don’t hate you! I just don’t understand why you are lying to the whole class.”
“But-” Margot was cut off by the Pattering sound of-
As I look up a drop of rain fell onto my nose. I jump out of my seat, a spark of excitement running through my body. One droplet quickly turns to thousands. Margot and I filled with laughter, both run outside the school. It feels like a dream finally being in the fresh rain. It was better than I could ever imagine! I look next to me to see Margot dancing around. I start to walk towards her until SLAM! I crash to the floor, mud flying everywhere from under my feet. I open my eyes to see Margot’s clothes smothered with mud. She stares at me with a shocked look which get interrupted by her uncontrollable giggling. Her laugh sounded different. It sounded cute. She places her hand in front of me, giving me a walm smile. Then helps me up out of the dirt. Margot then skips off, pulling me with her by my hand. I could barely hear her or myself over the loud sound of pouring rain. I can feel my clothes getting heavier as we both spin around, dancing happily. The rain is beautiful and so calming.
Suddenly I could feel the sun peaking through the clouds, it was like there was a spotlight on us. We both end up sitting on the ground looking up to the sky. Just the two of us. But it’s over, the sun is crawling back with only a mist of rain still here. Unexpectedly a glimpse of colour filled the sky. I sit there stunned and wide-eyed. It’s as if it is drawing me in, hypnotizing me with its vibrant colour.
“That, William, is a rainbow” Margot says, amazed.
This is where I want to stay, this moment. However, soon it will just be a memory until the time comes again when rain and stormy clouds will fill the sky. All I know is that I want to spend it again with Margot.