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Poetry teaching in schools

Posted by Garry Collins, AATE President on 17 March 2014
Poetry teaching in schools
  • The following letter was submitted to The Australian for the edition of Monday 17 March but was not selected for publication. It was written in response to an opinion piece by Christopher Bantick who regularly writes for the paper. He is described as: "a writer and senior literature teacher at a Melbourne boys Anglican grammar school". The paper did publish a letter from a teacher at Eynesbury Senior College in Adelaide which countered Bantick's claims saying that "poetry is alive and well" at her school.

Poetry teaching in schools

Christopher Bantick’s interest in promoting the teaching of poetry in schools is to be commended (“Dying light of poetry”, 15-16/3). Some of his sweeping generalisations, however, must be challenged.

He claims that teacher training institutions - presumably all of them since he offers no qualification – “do not teach poetry as part of an English teaching degree”. I can tell him that I regularly use poems in courses for prospective secondary English teachers that I teach at the University of Queensland where I work as a sessional academic.

He also claims that teacher professional development never has anything to do with poetry. This weekend just past I presented a workshop as part of a mini conference run in Brisbane by the English Teachers Association of Queensland. The session was entitled “Grammar and poetry: Integrating the language and literature strands of the Australian English Curriculum”. The teachers who gave up half their Saturday to participate certainly thought it dealt with poetry.

It is to be hoped that Bantick reminds his own students that sweeping generalisations are often wrong and that claims should be moderated to accord with the available evidence.

Garry Collins
President, Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE)

Author: Garry Collins, AATE President
About: Garry Collins is the Immediate Past President of ETAQ and began a 2 year term as AATE President on 1 January 2014. A retired high school English teacher, he now works in the School of Education at the University of Queensland as a sessional tutor in English curriculum courses.
Tags: Curriculum matters

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