I’ll admit, embarrassed and somewhat hesitantly, that I wasn’t totally excited to go to English Quest. I love to be involved at school. I love professional development conferences like the Utah Conference for Teachers of English(UCTE), and Utah’s Coalition for Educational Technology (UCET). However, every time English Quest has been announced, there wasn’t a very good response from other teachers. It’s like nobody understands what it is really about.
English Quest seemed to be half-heartedly advertised. Sort of like the announcer wasn’t sure how to describe the events that make up English Quest. This isn’t really a criticism as much as it is an observation. There are many aspects to English Quest so it has to be hard to explain it to teachers who hear all about new programs and new trainings. There has to be a better way to explain what it is. There are five books that students can read, and there is so much more. But why? What’s the point? What activities take students out of school for a full day? What benefit do students get from this? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it!
Apprehension and Aha!
Somehow, I got invited and assigned to be our schools new English Quest advisor. At the beginning of the school year I thought, “Sure, I can do that. What do I have to do?” It was far enough away, that I thought for sure I’d figure it all out by the time the day arrived.
I have amazing help from administration and other teachers at my school. I had never been an advisor for any kind of activity so I didn’t know what to expect. We had a small group of good students who knew what they were good at, and what they wanted to do. By then I had figured out what the events are, and how English Quest works.
English Quest at Weber State 2019
English Quest is a day full of English Language Arts appreciation through reading, writing, spelling, art, Shakespeare performance, spoken poetry, and spoken story. It’s for students in high school (9th through 12th grade). Students can sign up for three events, but most do just one or two. Some of the events require writing and reading in advance while others are perform-on-the-day events. It takes a lot of practice and bravery for students to perform in front of other students from around the state. The bonus to me is that students can take what they have been learning throughout the year and show off what they have learned, internalized, and produced.
My favorite unit as a teacher has to be poetry. I love seeing kids struggle with older writing, and showing them how words form ideas and emotions. They realize that they sometimes feel like the poet, but that the poet is using words unfamiliar to them. We shift from poetry to slam poetry and they light up. They connect to the rhythm of the phrases and the emotion of the message. We address all kinds of topics from love to loss. I show them examples, and read some of my own writing and sometimes I get emotional and cry. And (hopefully) that gives them permission to reach deep and write about what they love and what they hate and what they wish they could say to people but they don’t dare.
And then we slam in class. We share. We laugh at the silly ones. And nod and snap in understanding to pain and loneliness. Some cry, and some support with hugs and pats on the back. Boundaries crumble as students realize that though they are different, they are dealing with the same feelings. They are not alone.
English Quest Is
English Quest is a place where students can compete with the best students from schools around the state. English Quest challenges students to read deeper, memorize more, write more, try new angles, explore new themes, and not be afraid to try.
And there is recognition. Students are judged and awarded. Medals are given to the best interpretations of Shakespeare, the best spellers, the best slam poems, the best story tellers, the best writers of argument and narrative. It’s a blast to see so many kids alive with support for each other.
English Quest Is Amazing!
English Quest On!