I got some wonderful news last week.
The head of senior school came into the English faculty staffroom today to announce that we had enough students for two full Year 12 Literature classes next year, and two classes at Year 11. I did a bit of a happy dance.
Each year, the numbers have continued to grow steadily from five years ago, when there was one combined class of 11 and 12 Literature, consisting of about 12 students- total. One could argue that the recent changes to 'Englishes' from VCAA which allow students to study either Lit or English at Year 12 level, rather than having to do both could be the reason for the growth since students could find it easier to 'fit' Lit into their timetables... except for the fact that most students who are electing to do Literature are also choosing to do English as well. So, I'm going to choose to believe that the development of the curriculum of our Year 10 Literature course and Year 11 Lit course in recent years has been a big part of it, and I'm feeling pretty good about that. The students feel encouraged to engage with literary texts in all kinds of ways and are developing so much more confidence in their own readings.
I think that another factor is that the teaching of the subject has also become far more open in recent years, on a collegiate level. It's not hoarded by one person as the 'secret' highbrow literature subject anymore. I'm working in a team with my favourite colleagues- our knowledge is shared and teachers have the chance to 'follow their kids through' into year 12 if they wish to. I think that the students are really aware of the fact that we work together so closely too, and our collective passion for the subject comes through to the students.
All of this popularity is wonderful, and particularly the fact that students seem to be heeding our message that they should choose subjects that they love and not make choices according to which subjects get scaled up the most is great, but becoming so popular so quickly has its challenges. Teaching in an environment in which numbers are- if not quite everything- then pretty damn important, has sent a cold chill down my spine once or twice this year as the range and variety of students that we get wanting to study literature these days continues to widen. It takes guts to stick to your guns and not get caught up in the numbers game and the fear campaign which whispers in your ear to contain those classes to the cream of the crop, rather than open up the doors. But it's worth the stress, in so many ways.