How Feminist Pedagogy Plays out in Linden’s Senior English Curriculum
At a recent Open Window online parent conversation, senior English teacher Cassie Parkin shared the ways in which Linden’s values play out in the curriculum and the classroom.
“I strive to create an enduring understanding of the power of literature to aid in identity formation and empowerment,” says Cassie. “It starts with understanding the self and understanding society, and progresses to gaining the knowledge and confidence to inspire personal growth and societal change.”
Students are challenged to read, annotate, reflect and evaluate texts, and then to create Socratic seminars, essays, presentations and multimedia projects that could involve infographics, videos, podcasts, Twitter feeds, visual essays, trailers, advertisements and more. At all grade levels, students move from theory to application to personalization.
In Grade 7, students are introduced to Identity formation, social constructionism and empowerment. Course texts revolve around central female characters coming to terms with their identities within a patriarchal society — intersectional with racialization and heteronormativity.
Students embark on an intersectional analysis of the Civil Rights Era and its impact on female friendships through The Lions of Little Rock, which provides the foundation for a discussion on social constructionism.
Cassie offers a contemporary take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Students write an essay on consent, and carry out a thematic analysis of systems of power and control associated with male dominance with instances of transgressive female power. Their study of systems of control and dominance is extended through a media analysis.
By Grade 12, students have progressed to extension of queer theory, reconstructivism, and advanced psychoanalytic theory, including post-colonial theory (Spivak, Bhabha), Gender students (Berger), Mirror theory (Lacan) and Remytholization (Irigaray).
Students must read the work of, and present on, key postcolonial theorists. To aid in the remytholozation practice, students read and react to an article from The Atlantic outlining an alternative theory to the number of Indigenous peoples in North America prior to colonization. They also carry out a comparative study of Green Grass, Running Water and Wide Sargasso Sea, which allows students to apply both post-colonial theory and mirror theory to the texts.
Similar to the Grade 7 media project, students select a media piece and recreate it to draw attention to problematic social constructions. They critically analyze a scene from a chosen film, music video, or television episode to deconstruct the cultural messages implicit with the visuals and audio.
Their Independent Study Unit builds upon skills honed in Grade 11: students write a comparison essay on novels of their choosing using academic sources to substantiate their arguments.
Students leave Linden with a strong foundation in critical thinking, and written and oral expression, which transcend the study of literature. Our alumnae tell us that Linden’s English program gives them a real edge at university, regardless of their chosen field of study. Whether they are writing a thesis, lab report, research proposal or critical essay, they have the skills that they need.
Cassie has taught English and Humanities at Linden for the past four years. In 2019, she was selected from a global pool of applicants to receive a fellowship from the International Centre on Nonviolent Conflict, which allowed her to develop and teach a curriculum on civil resistance and nonviolent action.