Gwen Couch

English Teacher

What do you like about teaching at Chatham Hall?

Essentially, everything we do here is with girls in mind! Chatham Hall provides an ideal teaching and learning environment. Students are expected to articulate their thoughts and ideas every day, and they embrace the creative, collaborative approach to learning that Chatham Hall promotes.  Their positive engagement inspires me to continue to look at the material in new ways. Sometimes students will ask whether I get “bored” teaching some of the same books year after year. On the contrary, each Chatham Hall student brings a new perspective to the class. I learn from them in numerous ways every day.

What are your goals in reaching students?

While every English teacher has a desire for her students to develop a love of literature, one of my main goals is to help the girls relate to literature. I try to choose texts that allow them to connect to the experiences of the characters in one way or another. When girls feel something – anything – for a character(s), there is a better chance that they will work harder, read more deeply, and remain interested in the reading. While it is a relatively simple task to address literary concepts in novels, it is far more difficult to help girls make connections to literature from earlier centuries. I love making that happen for them. I simply want them to like, understand, and appreciate good literature (getting them to love it is even better!).

Writing often is the best way for a student to improve her skills and to explore different forms of expression. My goal is to expose the girls to a variety of writing activities: a weekly writer’s notebook, analytical essays, personal narratives, journals, playwriting, short fiction, and more! By reviewing past work, they are able to address areas of weakness as they progress through each new assignment. It is equally important to help students discover their authentic voices in writing. Collaborative peer review allows the girls to look to one another as valuable and viable resources. By creating a student-centered environment, the girls are able to trust one another.

In theatre, I want to challenge the girls to think deeply about creating complex characters. My style is to trust the girls’ instincts from the beginning — to listen to their ideas and, when possible, incorporate them with my own vision for a show; we become a collaborative team. In my experience, girls create more genuine characters when they are empowered to make connections and trust their own intuition.

What are some of your interests/hobbies outside of teaching?

I am a musician, a gardener, and an animal lover/owner (two dogs and two cats). Summers in Maine provide opportunities for kayaking, sailing, and beachcombing. Nothing inspires me more than walking along a rocky beach and looking for sea glass, which provides a unique look at relics from the past. I also love to read fiction.