English Week 2020
Despite the cloud of COVID 19, there has been so much to celebrate in the English faculty this term. English week 2020 was like no other before it, with guest writers and wordsmiths engaging with our students on ‘Zoom’ in a series of special events designed to inspire and provoke complex thinking and engage with a diverse range of views and values.
Aussie Hip Hop artist Mantra kicked off proceedings in an English-themed activity slot. It was unforgettably candid in his reflections on the relationship between RAP and poetry and the power of storytelling through Hip Hop music, rhythm, and rhyme. In the most lively zoom session I’ve seen to date, Mantra ad-libbed a series of rhymes as staff and students wrote random words and held them up to the camera. “I’ve never done anything like this before” is something I have heard many times over the last couple of months, and he wasn’t alone. Wrangling with rhymes for everything from “Avocado” to “Isolation,” this award-winning MC was both entertaining and vulnerable. Unforgettable!
Our Senior Homestead students were then treated to an exclusive Q&A panel discussion, facilitated by Mr. Bowen, with headlining special guest Cate Kennedy (author of VCE texts Like a House on Fire and Dark Roots). Cate was joined by broadcaster, actor, and writer Michael Veitch (of Fast Forward and Comedy Company fame) and Brook Powell, Yarra Valley Writers Festival Director. Our guests were completely awestruck by the wisdom and eloquence of our very own Year 12 student Roisin O’Connell, who represented the student voice in a complex and rigorous discussion about why we need a vibrant, well-funded arts community in a time of crisis. It was an absolute delight to see many thoughtful questions posed by students who had engaged in a study of Like a House on Fire earlier in the year. The moment that Charlie Edis began conversing with Kennedy on the issue of arts funding seemed to shrink the distance between all of us. Indeed, there were so many moments when that space between us all disappeared and the computer screen, filled with over 160 students and staff “zooming,” became a room for mutual inspiration. At one point, Kennedy described a process of meaning-making as a “collusion of understanding”; it certainly felt like we were all in on something much bigger than the individual.
During a virtual interview, between David Baxter and Guy Rundle, crikey.com journalist and “correspondent at large, staff and student had an insight into what it means to be a journalist at a time when so many of us, get our news from social media, sound bites and clickbait. When I asked him about it, later on, Mr. Baxter described his “pleasure in speaking with someone in the media which confirmed all [his] prejudices about politicians.” The only thing missing from the discussion was Barrie Cassidy and a TV crew!
The week was rounded off in a celebration of IDAHOBIT and a zoom Q&A with Mrs. Farquharson and Young Adult Fiction writer and special guest Will Kostakis. His generosity in sharing what it’s like to visit schools as a youthful, “out” gay author, was a real Woodleigh ‘moment’. He spoke about his inspiration, navigation through writer’s block, and his adoration of video games. The zoom ‘meeting’ of approximately 300, decked out in rainbow backdrops and students adorned in a spectrum of supportive colour, highlighted a sense of solidarity and the kind of respect for diversity that every school should aim to embody. It was another opportunity to reflect on just how fortunate we are as a community.
While our English week special events were a huge thrill, the daily competitions promoted via Instagram and Homestead sessions offered a different kind of opportunity. Staff and students were prompted to put pen to paper and craft a variety of Haiku, ‘List,’ performance, and ‘Found’ poems and Six Word Stories. A series of reflections upon what it’s like “when the city was quiet…” was particularly evocative, and some of these pieces, now artifacts of our life during continuous learning, will resonate for many years.
The winners of each category are below.
Zoe Heffernan, Year 7
Kinda awkward start,
‘till you get into the swing,
The discomfort shifts.
10-12 winner (sole entry!)
Rosh O’Connell, Year 12
copy, paste, return.
wrong password please try again
hold up...you’re on mute.
Honourable mention – Mr Donaldson
Ode to a Zoom Close-Up
Though you’re far away
Your chosen angle has you
Closer than preferred.
6 word stories
Alrighty… GRANDMA! TURN ON YOUR CAMERA!
Missing person, trapped online
Will you marry me.
Ruby Princess? She’ll be right mate!
While the City was Quiet:
Rani Jones (performance) Year 7
Braeden Van de Beek, Year 7
The street was silent. Eerie. Deserted. The ghosts roamed the streets, wisps of alabaster. Ravens perched on piles of rubble and conferred with each other, conspiring and whispering amongst themselves. The trees were ornamented with a curtain of leaves of a verdant, leafy green. The grass was long and dense, sabres of shamrock glistening on a dewy morning. A river veered in and out of patches of bushes, casting long, spindly fingers of water throughout the flora. Blotches of moss and algae lined the riverbank. If you follow the river, for a mile or so, you see devastation. Vast, storm-tossed oceans of debris and craters. That is the other side of the city. I don’t venture there. Not anymore. All there is on that side of the city is charred buildings and blown up houses. I remember the machine guns spitting bullets, and artillery casting spells of demolition upon the other side. This side of the city, the enemy couldn’t even lay their fingertips on; until one day, the day of the Siege. All the brigades and battalions stood at the ready, eagerly onlooked by the cheering, anxious residents of our city. The enemy knew they would lose, yet still they bombed the whole city, both sides. Yet I am one of the lucky few, left to live on in this treacherous jungle, full of destruction, ghosts and silence.
During the last few weeks, I have watched nature swallow the city. Vines draped off brick walls swaying in the tranquil breeze. The oak trees in the park stand more proudly than ever, boasting their colossal roots. The soil was sumptuous and wet. Many saplings started to sprout out of the burgundy dirt. The herons and squirrels and woodpeckers and anteaters started wandering the city, no longer hunted by shooters and poachers, buffeting the garbage stacks. Birds conducted a harmonic orchestra joined in by the rustling leaves. This new city is one I do not know, but it is one that I love. Calm. Serene. No sniper fire or minefields or curfews anymore. I’m free. Nature is free. We have no chains. This city is silent. Yet I hear nature singing loudly.
Nicci Twentyman, Year 12
I find it so crazy sometimes. All the hustle and bustle, hundreds of people swarming, dodging and ignoring each other. Utter madness I say. While the city was loud and plentiful with sound, I was stressed. Everyone moves so fast and with determination, I could feel my throat begin to tighten and my eyes glaze over. I just walked hurriedly in the same direction as the others hoping to be faster and better. Better at what? I’m not sure, everything seems like a competition of who could be the fastest, smartest prettiest, strongest. No one can ever just exist as they are. Now the city is closed and only some people walk the streets, it’s so weird to see. Like a ghost town in a horror film, you see it from your car half expecting something drastic to happen to fill the void. But you can see so much more when there’s no one around, take the time to appreciate the cracks in the sidewalk, the century old paint peelings off a building and the sheer scale of the buildings cascading over you like giants in the sky. Look up. What can you see? No planes, no helicopters, no grey or smoggy skies. I see blue. Bright crystal blue, and I see it when I look down too, in the water. All around is clear, no masses of people to block the view. I can see the detailed architecture of the eldest building. I feel serenity. The giants gaze over the concrete haven while the sunlight looms in the evening hours. It shines and glimmers across the water, dancing in the ripples. It shines onto the glossy leaves, generating new life. It shines through my window and warms the carpet I lay on. I may be inside but I can imagine, and I can enjoy all the beautiful sights I’ve seen before without the touch and go of people. My stress eases and I feel the warmth of the carpet spread to my feet, my hands, my legs and arms. It takes over me and warms my heart, it sounds cliché, but clichés are told because they’re true. Sitting here alone in the sun, while the city is quiet, we can embrace the natural beauties of our grey, concrete world. We get to watch it heal and transform. Complain about going to work, complain about staying home. Enjoy the peace while you can, because I’m certain when it’s inevitably back, the hustle and bustle, all anyone is going to wish for is when the city was quiet.
The streets are empty
In history, pestilence swept lands clear, Uninhabiting villages: all fell down; In the aftermath, a plague of fatal fear: First streets were empty; and then overgrown. From dark superstition, to modern-day Vaccines heralded new ways to exist: No longer would humanity be prey To Death's random scythe and deadly harvest. But no victory can completely kill The threat posed by such random germs as these. Whether from some covert lab or animal, A virus just mutates; infects the breeze. And once again we face an enemy That empties streets where once we walked so free.
FOUND POETRY WINNERS:
Poppy Mollett, Year 7
Annabelle Norman, Year 7
Staff winner: Miffy Farquharson
Ella Jones, Year 9
What I miss:
The little things
Like bus rides,
Long canteen lines,
That Jago smell,
Microwaving my lunch,
Scavenging lost property,
Overhearing people’s conversations
These memories are
Keeping me going
Until I return
V5 Tutor group
What I Miss…
and just because, another from David Baxter
An unprecedented sonnet …
This virus is, we hear, unprecedented:
So many have been struck down by this plague
You’d think the word might have been invented
To describe the dread disease of the age!
But if we were to parse it for its parts:
Un – is not; precaedere – gone before,
We’d see, if we looked in our heart of hearts
That it’s really happened often, if not more!
If, in fact, we meant “unpresidented”
Which is what we wish America would be,
Well, there’ a word that’s just newly-minted:
A neologism and a novelty!
So when we try to say these things are new,
We really ought to make sure that it’s true!
Learning Area Leader – English