Change is Coming

There are big changes in the English Department this year. Here’s what’s happening in our hallway!

We have two teachers joining the department: Sarah Eshelman and Robert Hale. Ms. Eshelman will be teaching sophomores and juniors, while also taking on the journalism classes and advising The Devil’s Advocate. Mr. Hale is going to work with seniors and sophomores. He has been busy transforming the old computer lab into a pretty amazing classroom space. Both teachers are eager to start the school year, to get into their classrooms, and to meet the amazing students of BHS. We are excited to welcome these educators into our school community.

Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 7.49.03 PMIn addition to these changes in our faculty we’ve also made some changes to our curriculum. Senior teachers spent much of the summer updating the Brit Lit research project to reflect the school’s new core values and learning expectations, as well as our new school-wide essential questions. Students will be engaging in a more personalized research project than the former assignment which centered on analysis of literature through a text-based composition. The updated project requires students to consider how they can contribute to the community by understanding and addressing issues of concern to them.

Throughout the course, students and teachers will use classic and contemporary literature to explore the concept of the individual’s power to impact change. After discussing these ideas in connection to the books they read, students will have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and ideas to their final project. They will research an issue; write a proposal about the direction of their work; develop informational, argumentative, and reflective writing on their chosen topic; and create a digital product to present their work. Students will engage in various forms of digital writing throughout the year to prepare them for this change. Teachers will work with podcasts, short films, blogs, visual essays, and other examples of digital rhetoric to help students understand the different forms of 21st century composition.


BHS hallway, recently painted to highlight our core values

The other main adjustment in our curriculum is in the sophomore framework. Though we are keeping the same texts and the driving focus on varied voices, we are shifting our approach to teaching them and centering on the concept of advocacy through storytelling. This change will offer students an opportunity to learn about other perspectives, to understand why it is important to question our assumptions, and to develop skills for engaging in discourse about difficult topics.

alcoveSome of the hallway spaces are also different. To align with our goal of expanding student collaboration, we’ve transformed the alcove in our main hall to include some lounge chairs and whiteboard tables. We will also include some displays to highlight student work and promote student activities. While this space is still a work in progress, we are hoping it will encourage students to share ideas, work to solve problems together, and to offer each other support.

We are really looking forward to another great year, and to helping students find happiness and success at BHS. Students, if you’re reading this, see you in September!


BHS English Dept Student of the Month – Merna Seleman! (Class of 2019)

Merna Seleman is a sophomore in Mr. Lally’s Intro to Literature II class, and is our selection for English Department Student of the Month for February (please excuse as we get caught up!)

From Mr. Lally: Merna’s performance in my class has stood out in pretty much every conceivable area. Her ability to dissect our literature is keen and intellectual. Her performance in our various assessments regularly rate among the very best. She comes to class with a positive attitude, and brings up questions that help promote a greater understanding of our material. Her writing is refined, and she was even one of my Poetry Out Loud winners! It is a pleasure having Merna in class. Congratulations!


BHS English Dept Student of the Month – Dwigins Rousseau! (Class of 2020)

Dwigins Rousseau is a freshman in Ms. Smetana’s Intro to Literature I class, and is our selection for English Department Student of the Month for January (please excuse as we get caught up!)

Along with her endorsement, Ms. Smetana added the following: Dwigins Rousseau’s willingness to take risks sets him apart from his peers. For example, when he discovered a classmate had chosen the Poetry Out Loud poem he had already memorized, Dwigins chose a new poem with only days to prepare.  Not only did Dwigins successfully recite that new poem, but he ended up advancing to the semi-finals.  Dwigins often steps up in moments when others hesitate– whether it be volunteering to read his personal writing aloud, helping a classmate, or answering a tough question. Overall, Dwigins enhances the class community by exemplifying courage, genuine curiosity, and optimism.  


Poetry Out Loud 2017 Ends for BHS

We regret to report that Gati Aher did not advance to the state finals in Poetry Out Loud this year. For the first time in years, the Framingham branch of the semifinals only allowed four competitors to advance, instead of the standard five or six, and despite performing excellent recitations of her two poems, Gati was not selected to move on to next week’s finals.

The English Department wishes to recognize Gati’s excellent performance this year – in the eleven years of Poetry Out Loud at BHS, Gati is only the second sophomore to ever win our championship. Tati, you did a great job in representing BHS in Poetry Out Loud, and you should be proud of your performance at the semifinals!

Congratulations to Senior Sidra Afzal on her First Published Collection of Poetry

We are very excited to share the news that Sidra Afzal (Class of 2017) has recently had a collection of her own original poetry made available for sale on Amazon! This is by no means the first time Sidra has been recognized for her writing – State Representative Ken Gordon came to BHS to formally recognize her for a short story that she wrote two years ago, and she has been published in the Claremont Review, Teen Ink, and Collab. She also won a poetry contest that allowed her to read her winning poem in front of an audience of over 20,000 people in Baltimore. But this marks the first time we’ve ever seen a BHS student publish a collection of poetry this significant. Congratulation to Sidra on this great achievement! We’ll post a link to the book as soon as it becomes available!

We also added a tab to our Published Authors page – check out all of our student writers!

Good Luck to Gati Aher in the Poetry Out Loud State Semifinals

On Saturday, sophomore Gati Aher will represent Burlington in the twelfth-annual Massachusetts Poetry Out Loud competition. She will compete against around 15 other state semifinalists in Framingham, around a third of whom will move on to the state finals in Boston on March 11. Gati will be reciting Sonnet 1 by Sir Philip Sydney, and To Live With a Landscape by Constance Urdang.

Good luck, Gati!

The 30-Day Responsible Citizen Challenge Starts TOMORROW!

Ms. Janovitz’s AP students are launching their 30-day Responsible Citizenship Challenge tomorrow, and the project will run through the end of March. The project encourages BHS students and faculty members to be more proactive about modeling responsible citizenship throughout the month, and has created a list of daily challenges to complete.

The first three challenges are:
March 1 – Research a current political issue that you hear about, but do not feel informed about
March 2 – Promote involvement in a school activity and plan on attending a school event
March 3 – Make a list of 5 questions to ask someone who supported a different candidate than you.

If you’d like to find out more about this project, please CLICK HERE

And, even better, if you would like to register to participate, CLICK HERE!

Attention Writers: Enter These Four Writing Contests

Attention, poets, essayists, and creative writers – there are currently four writing contests that have come to our attention that you might be interested in entering. In order of their due dates, they are:

The 12th Annual Will McDonough Writing Contest – This is a sports-themed writing competition that has several categories:

  • Great Moments in Sports – Write a narrative essay (fiction or non-fiction) about watching or playing in a great Boston sports moment
  • Sports Rivals – Write an essay on what you think is the greatest New England sports rivalry
  • Good Sports/Bad Sports – Write a narrative essay (fiction or non-fiction) about an individual or team who has displayed exceptionally good or exceptionally poor sportsmanship
  • Excessive Celebration in Sports – Write a persuasive essay that handles whether or not sports leagues should have rules that limit forms of celebration.

Due Date: MARCH 3 – Word limit: 600 word maximum for grades 9 & 10, 700 words for grades 11 & 12
PRIZE: First place receives a Kindle, and tickets to a ceremony at the March 29th Celtics game

Facing History Essay Contest – This is an essay contest that carries some significant cash prizes – The top three entries will receive a $5,000 scholarship, and the seven honorable mentions will earn a $1,000 scholarship. Here is the prompt, via their website:

Facing History and Ourselves works to create a society of thoughtful citizens who think deeply about the way they live as they make choices in their local communities and confront issues of global concern. We hope that students will believe that their choices do matter and will feel compelled to think carefully about the decisions they make, realizing that their choices will ultimately shape the world.

Elie Wiesel (1928-2016), the Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate, once spoke of the importance of learning about people who were rescuers during the Holocaust. He said, “Let us not forget, after all, that there is always a moment when the moral choice is made. Often because of one story or one book or one person, we are able to make a different choice, a choice for humanity, for life.”

Please write an essay responding to Wiesel’s quote in 500 words or less. What story, book, or person has influenced your thinking about ethical decision making? What has it taught you about how you can participate as a caring, thoughtful citizen in the world around you?

The contest opens for submissions on March 1, and the deadline is March 15

For more information on the rules and regulations, please CLICK HERE

The Longfellow Poetry Contest – This contest is open to all Massachusetts high school poets. Any student who wishes to enter should do the following:

Mail ONE original poem to:
Longfellow Poetry Contest
Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters NHS
105 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA  02138

On the entry, please include: Name, Grade, Your English Teacher, Your School & School Address (123 Cambridge Street)

PRIZE: Cash prize, and an invitation to a poetry ceremony on June 4

Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contests – This is a series of contests calling for poems, stories, film, and artwork that makes viewers reflect on the impact of ocean pollution, inspire them to consider possible solutions, and challenge them to take action.

For the rules and restrictions, please CLICK HERE

PRIZES: Cash prizes up to $1,500 – click the above link for details


Hmmm… What Should You Take Next Year? An English Elective.

Course Selection season is underway. We’re beside ourselves.

If you are unsure about what electives to take next year, we humbly suggest the English Department Electives – we offer courses in the following:

Media Production
Public Speaking
Creative Writing (Fiction OR Poetry)
Contemporary Literature
Young Adult Fiction
Film & Media Studies
Leadership and Social Change
Writing and Reading Lab

To find out a bit more about each class, CLICK HERE