Creativity needs to be a central focus at GCHS

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From the murals placed throughout the school to the fine-tuned choir performances at a variety of school events, it is evident that creative expression is a priority at GCHS. Even with our strength in creative areas like art, music and outlets like Inkblots and Writers Week for those who best express themselves through the written word, GCHS English curricula can be restricting at times.
Although creative writing isn’t something all students want to pursue, there are still many individuals who find themselves feeling discouraged with the lack of creative writing opportunities in English classes, since the classes focus mainly on literary and rhetorical analysis.
Even though GCHS has its faults when it comes to implementing creative writing in English courses, the faculty here is not solely to blame for students’ misconceptions about creative writing. As early as elementary school, kids are taught that creative works can only be considered well-written if they follow a rigid structure.
“I’ll tell my friends [they should write poetry] and they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m bad at it, I can’t rhyme,’” Inkblots editor and sophomore Kate Soucie said. “But you don’t have to rhyme to write a poem; you just do it. And that’s the [school system’s] fault; it’s not [the student’s] fault for thinking that. If the school [system] taught them how to really write, which is easy, then they could be raised as better thinkers, as people who enjoyed exploring their minds and exploring others’ minds, because writing is just so important and they don’t teach it [early enough].”
Because students come into high school lacking creative writing experience, it would seem like a no-brainer to add more creative writing opportunities into the curricula of required English classes. Yet, students find few chances to express themselves within the limitations of English course requirements.
“I went to Inkblots and [asked Mrs. Rush when we would write poetry during the poetry unit in Sophomore English Honors],” Soucie said. “She was like, ‘Never,’ and I legitimately thought she was joking. I would get if it’s a literature class, because you don’t write in literature, but it’s an English class. You’re not supposed to just sit there and analyze things. You have to write.”
Although English teacher and Inkblots adviser Joan Rush used to make students write poetry during the poetry unit, she has instead started offering the opportunity as extra credit.
“It’s really kind of cruel to make someone write a poem who doesn’t want to write poetry,” Rush said. “I’ve kind of gotten away from that forced creative place. [Creative writing is] more on a voluntary basis now because I just feel uncomfortable forcing a kid into a place where they don’t want to go…I think just creating the opportunity sometimes is enough. Kids don’t have to take it, and then kids who really want to take it will be like, ‘Yay,’ and then maybe there will be some who are just doing it for a grade, but they’ll actually write something good and it’ll surprise them and they might write something else. [There are] sparks that’ll be created in less forceful ways.”
While it is understandable to not want to force kids to experience creative writing, Soucie feels pushing kids to have that experience is justified, considering all students are required to take logic-based classes, even if they are more interested in the arts and humanities.
“I don’t have a desire to do math, but I’m forced to do it,” Soucie said.
In addition to the issue of whether or not it is right to make students write creatively for a grade, teachers must also take into consideration the content they are required to teach students. AP English classes offer upperclassmen the opportunity to challenge themselves and earn college credit, but such courses also limit what other material teachers can cover in class just for the sake of teaching something new.
“It’s really difficult at the AP level to open up those creative options, because there are very clear and rigorous expectations from College Board about what goes into those courses and we don’t have a lot of control over that curriculum,” associate principal Barb Georges said. “If we want to continue to have approved curriculum from College Board and pass those course audits, you have to play by their rules. In order to run those AP College Board classes, we’re not going to have those kinds of creative outlets.”
Freshmen and sophomores may be unable to take AP English classes, but those in advanced level courses also receive fewer opportunities for creativity. Since they are working toward taking AP English classes later on in high school, teachers aim to provide their students with the skills necessary to be successful in those college-level courses.
“Sophomores are being prepared for [AP classes], so there’s that place where the creative writer is sort of left out on a ledge, so to speak, because there’s not really the room for it,” Rush said. “I still think that those with that creative voice can find places within literature to be creative with that voice, even though they’re working with a piece that was written by somebody else.”
Teachers may have certain material that must be covered in class, but that doesn’t have to mean there is no place for creative writing in any of the English courses. An English elective for creative writing would allow the writers of GCHS to receive formal instruction in various types of narrative and poetic writing.
In fact, such an elective already exists. A course called Writing Workshop serves this purpose, but it has not been offered for years. The course has not ran in recent years because it has not appeared on the course selection sheets students use to pick their classes. Without the course being present on the sheet, students were unaware of the course’s existence and could not sign up for it to express their interest in taking the class.
“If there are courses in the book, they’re supposed to be on the course selection sheet,” Georges said. “Students who are interested in a class will tell their counselor, ‘I want to take this class,’ and all those numbers come back to us. Mr. Landry and I sit down with a massive spreadsheet and we look at how many kids are interested in taking a class. The Board of Education has a policy that we can’t run a class unless there is a minimum of 15 kids interested in it.”
The disappearance of the creative writing course is not only due to the fact that it hasn’t been on the course selection sheet, but also because it simply was not a class that was in high demand among GCHS students. If the class were to run again, it would be a semester-long regular-level class. For students who strive to maintain a high GPA, not having the weighted grading that comes with honors and AP classes makes taking such electives unappealing.
“English is a four-year requirement, so…students that want to take an English elective are taking that on top of regular English classes [and] there aren’t a lot of students that are willing to give that period,” English department chair Melissa Thurlwell said. “Additionally, [Writing Workshop] is never going to be an honors class. So [because of] this push to be valedictorian, to get the best GPA ever, we found that our electives were just not filling up.”
If Writing Workshop were to run, there comes the issue of figuring out who would teach the class, how many sections would be added throughout the day and seeing whether adding this course will limit other class sections.
“Each year, teaching staff gets distributed across the sections that students opted to take that year,” Georges said. “Teaching assignments are redistributed annually and the courses or quantities of courses teachers are assigned varies,” Georges said. “We maintain a reasonably consistent student population. Therefore, there would be no need to hire additional staff. The students that would opt to take a course like the Writing Workshop class would have previously taken some other [English] course.”
As uncertain as the future may be for Writing Workshop, it would be an addition to the current English class offerings that the creative writing community at GCHS would greatly appreciate. At the very least, students will see Writing Workshop and other electives as options on their course selection sheets.
“Last year, I went to Inkblots religiously,” Soucie said. “Then I went to Writers Week and most of the people there weren’t in Inkblots, [and I wondered why], because [they were] such great writers. That brought a whole other side of the creative writing community in Central. There are so many other people we don’t know about who write.”

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Creativity needs to be a central focus at GCHS