July 6

July is upon us and hard as it is to believe, 2020 is halfway over. I hope everyone had a safe and celebratory 4th of July weekend…I’m sure you can guess that mine centered around the premier of Hamilton on Disney Plus. It did not disappoint at all; even after having seen it onstage twice, nothing compared to seeing this original cast- what a wonderful way to ring in the 4th this year. 

And now, having enjoyed the long weekend, many of us are “back to work” today- whether that work is in person or remote. The Board and Administration at SDA have already been devoting their time to various workstream projects- focusing on teacher workshops and training, schedule and handbook revisions, social emotional and diversity based curriculum, as well as hiring practices and Board expansion. We will all be picking up where we left off last week, as well as working on finalizing plans for opening in September, increasing faculty training on hybrid and remote learning, having two administrators, myself and Mrs. Buge trained to earn COVID-19 Safety Manager certification, and the entire staff is working with New York Life Insurance to become certified as a Grief Sensitive School.

While all this is taking place, each teacher is working to reassess and reevaluate his or her curriculum: adding new readings and lessons, updating prior guidelines and broad based plans, and for our AP classes, ensuring that the curriculum we are using is in line with all of the most recent College Board standards. Some days, each of us is “nonstop” ( you see, I got a Hamilton quote in here!) as we are tireless in our goal to ensure that we can offer each young lady in our SDA family the most well rounded, challenging, and exceptional educational experience this coming year. 

In that vein, today I am happy to give a quick sneak peak into the AP Literature and Composition curricular readings for the 2020-2021 school year. The course, which has been available to seniors at SDA for a number of years is revised time and again; with a suggested list of over 400 authors who may appear on the exam, each teacher who has instructed this class has made it personal and special his or her own way- selecting works each felt were exceptional examples of literature- ones that would work to ensure a high score on the free response section. AP Literature is the culmination of four years of honors level course work in English at SDA and the readings from 9th through 11th are geared to cover some of the authors who may appear on the exam. In 12th grade, in addition to intense study of poetry and short story in preparation for the objective assessment portion, scholars are required to engage in in-depth novel studies; all fictional as per The College Board, in order to develop and enhance their literary analysis skills, in preparation for the essay portion of the exam. 

As I said, with over 400 authors to chose from, each teacher selects a Reading List that reflects a timely curriculum, one that will “speak” to the young women in the class. This year, as the course changes hands, a new reading list has been selected- one that reflects some of the changes we at SDA are making in our curriculum, as we strive to offer more diversity within our courses of study. The list for the 2020-2021 school year is as follows:

Beloved by Toni Morrison: Using the real life tragic story of slave Margaret Garner, this novel appears on the AP exam free response almost yearly; it’s complex text about ghosts and guilt, about the choice between life as a slave and death at the hands of a loving parent is heartbreaking and emotional and a must read. 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: Another AP favorite, this dystopian novel is now a popular TV miniseries- which I’ve heard captures the mood of the book perfectly. Hard to read, especially for young women, it is nevertheless an important look at our dangerous the future could become, if all are not truly treated equal. 

The Wedding by Dorothy West: A shorter read, but an important one. Set in The Oval, a upper class black community in Martha’s Vineyard in the 1950’s, it walks us through a mixed race wedding, where our white groom is unsure of his place in this wealthy family. The family, hiding secrets of its own and not altogether comfortable with their own mixed race status, would prefer their daughter to marry within The Oval community. Often overlooked, West’s final novel is a masterpiece. 

Othello by William Shakespeare: Everyone knows the tale; if only Othello had been given the advice to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, he may have avoided his fate. Distrusted because of his race, looked down upon for marrying Desdemona, but praised for his military heroics- it’s no wonder the seeds of doubt planted by Shakespeare’s most evil villain Iago bring about the downfall of our hero and his wife. Jealousy, insecurities, and rage prove to be a fatal mix. 

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner: This family may well be the polar opposite of the family created by Dorothy West, which will make for interesting compare/contrast analysis. Told from the POV of over 25 characters, this poor Southern family’s quest to bury their mother is harrowing and eerie all at once. Another AP favorite, for sure. 

Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot: It’s hard to imagine this beautiful poem was penned by the man who brought us the inspiration for CATS. Light years away in content and form from dancing felines, it tells the story of religious conflicts between church and state, and on a more personal level, between two friends as well. Culminating in the murder of Saint Thomas Becket; this is a showcase of how history can be blended with literature to create a moving and compelling tale. 

Atonement by Ian McEwan: This was selected most especially for its message about the dangers and perils of lying and spreading gossip. Perhaps no other modern novel immerses readers in the depths of a lie of this proportion and outlines quite so clearly how it has devastating results on everyone’s lives. A good foil for Shakespeare’s play, the ending will shock each reader. 

The Color Purple by Alice Walker: An epislitory novel, written as letters to God, Walker’s book has been a must read for AP scholars since it was penned. It’s unique style alone makes it worthy of an AP level study and the content, so rich in colorful descriptions and featuring themes of identity, self worth, female empowerment, and love in all forms, is moving and soul stirring. Readers won’t see purple in nature ever again without thinking of God. 

Wicked by Gregory Maguire: A newer choice, one that allows scholars to see how a “classic” tale can be re-spun and reinvented for a new generation. More than just a peek into the World of Oz and a fanciful story of how someone becomes the wicked witch, this novel deals with the ideas of discrimination, jealousy, social climbing, abandonment by a parent, and political power and oppression. And, most timely for our young ladies, it features a strong, empowered female protagonist–the cities may be emerald and the monkeys may be flying, but at the heart of the novel, the obstacles faced by Elphaba hit very close to life as many of us may know it. 

That’s a small look into our ever changing, ever growing curricular endeavors at SDA. Moving forward in the coming weeks, we will be sharing more updates with our SDA community: on curriculum expansions, faculty workshops and webinars and the like…stay tuned to hear all that is taking place at SDA. 

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