Course Syllabus

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Gender & Sexuality

in Literature + Beyond

We want a world where boys can feel, girls can lead, and the rest of us can not only exist but thrive. This is not about erasing men and women but rather acknowledging that man and woman are two of many—stars in a co (1).gif





Course Overview

This year, we will be studying literature through the lens of gender and sexuality and interrogating the binary way in which we understand ourselves through society’s labels and social constructs, as well as our lived experiences. This senior course will engage you in challenging but rewarding discussions as we learn more about how our identities are formed, how they can change over time, and how we can tell our own stories. 

Together, we will read, write, and discuss questions about identity, such as: Who am I? What is my story? And what forces and choices influence this identity? We will start by reflecting on our own identities and how they are influenced by our relationships and our environment. We will use characters in our texts to unpack central questions, such as: How does literature teach me to empathize and connect with others?  You’ll also have the opportunity to explore some of the course’s central themes through independent projects, current event presentations, and your senior speech and senior paper (a graduation requirement).

Writing assignments will require the formulation of concise hypotheses, the integration of outside resources, and sophisticated vocabulary and sentence construction. Classes generally operate as seminar-style discussions that require daily preparation, the ability to infer theories and conclusions, and higher level abstract thinking.

I am looking forward to working with you this year and getting to know you through your writing, in-class and online discussions, and of course, our scheduled and off-hand conversations. With a growth mindset, an open mind, and a good night’s rest 😊 , you will have the necessary tools to be successful in this class. I hope you will join me in creating a community of learners who are curious, empathetic, flexible, and gracious.

Here's to our year together!!

LaTeX: - Alison McCormick (she/her)

LaTeX: \odot Please note that this course deals with controversial, difficult, and sometimes upsetting topics. We will also be watching films and discussing readings and images that contain adult language and content.  If you have any particular sensitivities or triggers, please see/email me as soon as possible. 

Course Content & Expectations

All Senior English Classes have been constructed around the following Essential Questions:

  • Who am I? What is my story, and what forces and choices influence this identity?
  • How does writing help me tell stories? How do I use the stylistic techniques and literary conventions explored last year to tell my stories and the stories of others?
  • How does literature teach me to empathize and connect with others?

Beyond the Binary's Thematic Arc:

Self + Family Relationships Breaking Boundaries

Capstone: Senior Speech + Paper

Who are characters in relation to their families? What are characters’ roles in their families, and how do their roles define them?

How are gender norms and sexuality used to define relationships?

How do authors use the stylistic techniques and literary conventions explored last year to tell stories?

How does literature teach us to empathize and connect with others? 

Who am I? What is my story, and what forces and choices influence this identity?

Our classroom is inclusive and centered on the core values of the Wellesley Public Schools:

 𓆩♡𓆪 Commitment to Community                     𓆩♡𓆪 Respect for Human Differences

 𓆩♡𓆪 Cooperative and Caring Relationships     𓆩♡𓆪 Academic Excellence 

🤔 If you're wondering: Should I take this course for honors or ACP credit? Click HERE.

Key Practices for success in this course:

Timeliness: If you have to arrive late, or submit something late, please be proactive about communication whenever possible. I will follow up with you, your school counselor, and those at home if this happens more than once. 

Preparedness: Come with the necessary materials listed and a growth mindset. 

Empathy: We will practice this through reading, discussing, and active listening.

Open mindedness: You will undoubtedly be challenged to think about something differently in this course, and I encourage you to actively listen and reflect when you hear a new perspective. I guide you in teaching how to think, not what to think. It is up to you to ask questions, interrogate the texts, and evaluate context & biases.

Self awareness: We will practice this through mindfulness, as well as self and group reflections.

Integrity: Show yourself and others the respect of acting with our core values in mind. 

Inclusivity: Everyone belongs in our classroom, and it is our job to make people feel that way through our words and actions.


Key Components of this course:

Class Work/Participation: I will ask you to be an active member of our class discussions by asking questions, responding to questions, listening to and respecting others, and arriving on time. Your participation in class includes responding to other students with respect, as well as helping to strengthen our class community.  Many of the texts we cover will inspire provocative discussion that will be greatly improved with positive class participation and mutual respect for one another.

Skills & Assessments: This year, we will focus on feedback, reflection, and your growth regarding central 12th grade skills over time. You will be assessed on essays, projects, discussions,  presentations, reflections, and vocabulary. Take note of the level difference here. 

*Some of the central writing and communication skills we’ll focus on this year include showing vs. telling in a personal narrative, developing a clear voice and sense of self, drawing connections between the self and the world, understanding the world through social constructs and lived experiences, critically reading and deconstructing a text, and specifically applying critical theory to current events, pop culture, and literature.

Feedback: I will give you feedback (in writing and through conferencing) in the following areas over the course of the year.

✔ Analysis (close reading, critical thinking & creativity)

✔ Communication (language, structure, idea development, presentation)

✔ Focus (voice)

✔ Reflection (self assessment & metacognition)

✔ Approach to Learning (preparation, engagement, collaboration & commitment to community)

Beyond the Classroom: This is a past favorite, in which every student is responsible for finding and presenting some form of media that connects with the themes of the term. Keep an eye out for relevant current events or pop culture connections to class conversations, and the year-long schedule of these presentations.

Mindfulness in the Classroom: We will practice mindfulness regularly during class time. Mindfulness helps us to lead more healthy lives, which will help us to cope with stress, learn about ourselves, and stay focused in class, for starters. Also, we need to be present in order to really hear each other and take in information. In general, practicing mindfulness will help us to learn better, read and write intentionally, as well as show up for each other.

Homework: A lot of your homework in this class will consist of reading for the next day. You can expect about 40 pages of reading per class period, and there will often be guided reading questions to answer or a writing assignment related to the reading. Homework is due at the start of class because the previous night's work will often inform the class activity for the day. Not all homework will be collected. If a homework assignment is not collected, then you will be held accountable by being prepared for class discussions/activities.

Attendance and Make-Up Work: If you know you are going to be absent, please let me know beforehand if at all possible. Email me as soon as you can. Obviously there may be unforeseen circumstances that arise, so please do your best to provide notice to me and/or your guidance counselor if you think you may have an extended absence. If you are absent, it is your responsibility to check the Engage! Page, check with a classmate regarding missed work, and email me with any questions.

Academic Integrity: Cheating shows a lack of respect for self and for others. Taking short cuts—such as reading SparkNotes or asking a friend for a synopsis of reading—is cheating. Plagiarism is cheating. If you are unprepared for a quiz, or if you are about to miss the deadline for a paper, accept your responsibility by speaking to me honestly and accepting the consequences. Do not be tempted by the great pressures on you to look for another way out. I take all forms of cheating very seriously and follow school policy. (Please see the “Academic Integrity” section of the Student Handbook.)

The Wellesley High School Student Handbook defines plagiarism as “copying or adopting literary, musical or artistic composition, a computer program, any electronically retrieved data, or the work of another and publishing it as one’s own original composition or work.” Such a definition will apply straightforwardly if you ever complete outside research for your formal essays: to avoid plagiarism, cite your source parenthetically with a page number, reserving the bibliographic entry for the end of the essay. The spoken words and ideas of our class discussions and small-group work should be considered a shared text for the purposes of the course, and they need not be cited parenthetically. Please consult me when you have questions about proper citation before submitting any written work. I am here to help you understand the severity of plagiarism and help you avoid it.

Writing Conferences/Extra Help: I am available to meet with you to review past work or upcoming essays or other concerns. I encourage you to set up a time with me during office hours or conference times to discuss questions you have on your assignments. You can also send me an email with questions, but please make sure to use formal (enough) language in these emails, and note that I will do my best to respond in a timely manner. I cannot always respond to emails sent in the evening, so try to check with me during the school day, or plan to bring your questions to class. I expect you to be proactive about long term assessments.