UP CLOSE: Take a deeper look at the works of our 2020 English Extension 2 students, notable for their diversity, their depth of insight and their dedication to telling new stories.

From IGS Principal Shauna Colnan

“Will you look at us by the river! The whole restless mob of us on spread blankets in the dreamy briny sunshine skylarking and chiacking about for one day, one clear, clean, sweet day in a good world in the midst of our living.” Tim Winton, Cloudstreet

English Extension 2 is a course for dreamers and visionaries. Students take on four units of English during their HSC year and develop an original substantial major work in one of the following forms: short fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, critical response, script – short film, television, drama, podcasts – drama, storytelling, speeches, performance poetry or multimedia.

As the year began, we asked our students whether they were prepared to create something new, something that didn’t already exist. How did they feel about taking the reader by the hand and leading them into the world of the text they create, giving the reader an encounter that would change them utterly? Were they prepared to do that?

With a gleam in their eyes, they said yes.

And so began our journey together towards the composition of eight beautiful major works in English. These talented new writers, poets, filmmakers and storytellers have much to say.

Their voices are lyrical, eloquent and forceful.

They’ve been empowered by hard work and extensive independent research. In Extension 2 we’re also always on the shoulders of literary giants. Throughout the year we enjoyed reading and talking about Winton, Eliot, Browning, Shakespeare, the Brontës, Fitzgerald, Woolf, Freud, Cixous, Ginsberg, Yanagihara and even Childish Gambino.

As you enter each world that has been created by our students, you’ll encounter places that will stay with you long after you leave. Some of the worlds are strange, some are mesmerising.

All are thought provoking, finely crafted and memorable.

It has been a joy to team-teach with IGS’s brilliant Head of English Thom Marchbank and our Writer-in-Residence, the astonishing Dr Felicity Plunkett. Together we set out to nurture the immense creativity and intellectual firepower of Hugo Aguilera-Mendoza, Katerina Alexander, Ava Jenkin, Bianca Kotoulas, Jake Lacy, Zara Upfold and Tom Wilkin.

A humbling and moving experience

Sometimes it was more about getting out of their way so that they could go further than even they thought they could go. At other times we were humbled and moved by their openness to our detailed and exacting feedback. It’s tough to have your work critiqued by the eagle eye of English teachers before you really want anybody to see it.

What has inspired us most has been the way these wonderful, funny, clever students have nurtured and encouraged each other in what has become a treasured learning community that met in The Literarium each Monday at lunchtime and from 4 till 5pm on Friday afternoon. This was the crucible in which eight new works were forged and each represents the endless potential of students in their final year of school.

Like Winton’s restless mob down by the river in the opening of Cloudstreet, we loved being in each other’s company and the whole was definitely more than the sum of the parts. Conversations about the cathartic power of a book, about God, and time and gender and friendship and love were the threads that wove our collective experience of the course. We had a lot of fun.

I will miss our students and their works. I’m proud of them and I congratulate them. I thank them for being everything a teacher could possibly hope for, and finally, I commend these fine major works to you.