Study stories and you will find your own!

Study stories and you will find your own!

I can trace much of who I am, what I love, and how I think back to my HSC English classroom and the things I learnt there. In my years as a tutor however, I’ve repeatedly come across the view that English won’t serve most once they’re outside of the classroom. That while literacy is important, analysing texts, composing stories, and writing essays about poems aren’t going to help you once you get ‘out there’.

This popular held belief couldn’t be more wrong. Not only that, but it’s a dangerous view that can stunt creativity and result in students missing out on hugely beneficial skills that could not only aid them in their future careers, but differentiate them from their competition.

Let’s look at the HSC English program in a little more detail. For those of you who are uncertain, English taught in schools consists of two things:
1) Formal Writing (which is analysing creative texts to comprehend their meaning and make evidence based arguments); and
2) Creative Writing (formulating an original idea and expanding on it to create a piece of literature)

Let’s start with formal writing. English encourages students to analyse some of the great literary works using evidence to back up their arguments. These skills and habits are a crucial step in building critical thinkers. Critical thinking is valued in professions across the board as well as in daily life. It’s the stuff true leaders are made of. But here’s the kicker – most people aren’t actually that good at it. Don’t believe me? Think of all the times you’ve seen a wrong decision, ill-considered argument, new strange health craze, or piece of misinformation spread like wild fire on social media. Many such situations are symptomatic of a failure to stop, consider evidence, and draw reasonable conclusions rather than simply accept what you’re told. Formal writing in English may not be the sole key to critical thinking, but it’s a starting point and an important piece of the puzzle.

Secondly, we have creative writing! What can I say? As an avid reader, obsessed with the arts and the different modes of storytelling, I can certainly attest to the value this has outside of the classroom. On a personal level, the art of writing has fed my soul, transporting me to other worlds where I come back renewed and hungry for more. Anyone can have the same experience. The key is simply practise. Read, write, and when you’re tired, read and write some more. It can begin with a journal, a diary, or a poem. Learn to feel the creativity when it rises in you and enjoy what comes out- if nothing else, it is and will always be uniquely yours.

On a more professional level, don’t underestimate the value that some of the world’s most successful, innovative companies place on creativity. Google, a dream destination for many, has been known to ask questions during interviews designed specifically to identify creative applicants. Apple struggled for several years before some ‘outside the box’ ideas brought them back to life, stronger than ever. It may feel like a stretch to link creative writing to world changing innovation, but again, what happens in the English classroom is simply a starting point. It’s an environment that tries to facilitate a different way of thinking and seeing information. Innovation can’t thrive without creativity, and creativity dies if it isn’t fed.

I can trace much of who I am, what I love, and how I think back to my HSC English classroom and the things I learnt there. In my years as a tutor however, I’ve repeatedly come across the view that English won’t serve most once they’re outside of the classroom. That while literacy is important, analysing texts, composing stories, and writing essays about poems aren’t going to help you once you get ‘out there’.

This popular held belief couldn’t be more wrong. Not only that, but it’s a dangerous view that can stunt creativity and result in students missing out on hugely beneficial skills that could not only aid them in their future careers, but differentiate them from their competition.

Let’s look at the HSC English program in a little more detail. For those of you who are uncertain, English taught in schools consists of two things:
1) Formal Writing (which is analysing creative texts to comprehend their meaning and make evidence based arguments); and
2) Creative Writing (formulating an original idea and expanding on it to create a piece of literature)

Let’s start with formal writing. English encourages students to analyse some of the great literary works using evidence to back up their arguments. These skills and habits are a crucial step in building critical thinkers. Critical thinking is valued in professions across the board as well as in daily life. It’s the stuff true leaders are made of. But here’s the kicker – most people aren’t actually that good at it. Don’t believe me? Think of all the times you’ve seen a wrong decision, ill-considered argument, new strange health craze, or piece of misinformation spread like wild fire on social media. Many such situations are symptomatic of a failure to stop, consider evidence, and draw reasonable conclusions rather than simply accept what you’re told. Formal writing in English may not be the sole key to critical thinking, but it’s a starting point and an important piece of the puzzle.

Secondly, we have creative writing! What can I say? As an avid reader, obsessed with the arts and the different modes of storytelling, I can certainly attest to the value this has outside of the classroom. On a personal level, the art of writing has fed my soul, transporting me to other worlds where I come back renewed and hungry for more. Anyone can have the same experience. The key is simply practise. Read, write, and when you’re tired, read and write some more. It can begin with a journal, a diary, or a poem. Learn to feel the creativity when it rises in you and enjoy what comes out- if nothing else, it is and will always be uniquely yours.

On a more professional level, don’t underestimate the value that some of the world’s most successful, innovative companies place on creativity. Google, a dream destination for many, has been known to ask questions during interviews designed specifically to identify creative applicants. Apple struggled for several years before some ‘outside the box’ ideas brought them back to life, stronger than ever. It may feel like a stretch to link creative writing to world changing innovation, but again, what happens in the English classroom is simply a starting point. It’s an environment that tries to facilitate a different way of thinking and seeing information. Innovation can’t thrive without creativity, and creativity dies if it isn’t fed.