he goal of Buxton’s English curriculum is to create engaged readers, writers and thinkers. We want students to respond honestly and intelligently to literature, to grasp the exciting and innovative ideas that great writers put forth, to learn to analyze and interpret texts, and to translate their own ideas into powerful, thoughtful writing. All Buxton students take four years of English, during which time they read, discuss, and write continuously, always in close conjunction with their teachers and peers. They actively participate in the process of understanding and making literature, approaching great books openly and thoughtfully in the spirit of curiosity and with a will to learn. We expect that the habits of engagement that students acquire in their English classes will cross over into all aspects of their lives.

The two facets of the English program—the teaching of great literature and writing skills and the building of community within the school are meant to be overlapping and complementary. Students simultaneously engage with literature and the world in which they live.

Poetry Writing Workshop w/Katie (Any grade, Fall)

In this workshop-style class, students will read and listen to a wide array of poetry (from sonnets to spoken word) and compose original poems. Students will experiment writing in different forms and styles and responding to generative writing prompts: writing odes to everyday objects, crafting poems inspired by visual art, and making verbal collages. Writing workshops will be devoted to careful consideration and discussion of each student’s work.

Creative Nonfiction and The Lyric Essay w/Kevin (11th/12th, Fall)

In this class students will explore the genre of creative nonfiction with particular focus on lyric essays. Students will read and write lyric essays and will go on excursions that aim to inspire their writing and help them create a collage of experience to weave in and out of within the form. The main text we’ll be reading from is Maggie Nelson’s Bluets.

English I

This course is an introduction to the infinite possibilities and pleasures of literature. We will, first and foremost, consider a selection of contemporary novels, classic texts, and short stories individually and in relation to each other. These considerations will be of a literary, social, historical, and personal nature. Through these analyses, students will have the opportunity to improve their writing, reading, and speaking skills, learning to critically interpret and articulate their own ideas effectively in careful inquiry and personal response to the topics at hand. Further, the class is a unique chance for the entire grade to learn about and from each other over the course of the year, getting to know one another personally and intellectually in their first year at the school.

English II

This English II section, entitled “Speaking Truth to Power,” will explore the meanings of the words “truth” and “power.” Who decides what is true? If all information contains bias, then how do we decipher truth? How does power affect our access to truth? Authors and writers have the power to create and present truthful narratives that illuminate the many ways of seeing and interacting with our world. Through critical reading and writing, exploratory projects, and group discussion, students will sharpen their skills as truth-tellers. We will explore the works of authors including James Baldwin, Elie Wiesel, Nayyirah Waheed, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Arundhati Roy, Alison Bechdel, Octavia Butler, and more.

English III

We begin in the fall with a close reading intensive. We interrogate the mechanics of language in works of microfiction and poetry, learning to identify and describe the careful choices involved in constructing a text. In the winter, we bring our close reading skills to bear on the everyday language recorded in Studs Terkel’s Working. Our interest here is both specifically literary and broadly humanistic: how does language reflect the realities of life at work? How does a person’s experience at work inform and shape their idea of the self moving through the world? Students are encouraged to get curious about the interplay of necessity and choice involved in working life, and to begin to envision how they might navigate working life when school comes to an end. In the spring, English III takes a turn towards rhetoric and the art of persuasion. We will read excerpts from Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian, investigating the classical art of rhetoric and learning to identify and use basic rhetorical figures. Our unit on rhetoric will culminate in a powerpoint party, in which groups of Juniors will have an opportunity to persuade the rest of the student body on a wide array of topics ranging from the frivolous to the existential. Finally, we will all decide on a short novel to read together to bring the year to a close. Throughout the year, Juniors are also hard at work on Junior Thesis— a research-based project that gives each student the opportunity to take a deep dive into a topic of their choosing. Students receive guidance and instruction on some of the nuts-and-bolts aspects of research, including note-taking and citation practices.


English IV

Seniors will choose one of two electives offered each semester, each taught by a different teacher. These courses will continue to develop, on a more advanced level, many of the theoretical and aesthetic ideas explored in the previous three years. Student writing, class reading, and discussion are at the center of the courses.

The Art of Losing

It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

–Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”

How do writers—even masters of the craft—wrestle language into a form that can describe significant personal loss? What tools are at the disposal of a writer who is grieving? This class will examine various texts—personal essays, poems, memoir and autobiography—to explore this question. We’ll read writers who look at death by juxtaposing it against something else: Cheryl Strayed, who pairs the death of her mother with the beginning of her heroin addiction, and James Baldwin, who examines his father’s death alongside the Harlem race riots. We’ll a read a book that approaches death by breaking all the rules, even blurring the lines between fact and fiction: Dave Eggers’ memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, in which Eggers chronicles his experiences raising his 8-year-old brother after the sudden deaths of both his parents. Finally, we’ll see where a writer’s tools seem to fail, where death can only be discussed through fragmentation and the breakdown of form: Joan Didion’s Blue Nights, about the death of the author’s daughter. Throughout the semester, students will work on creative pieces that experiment with juxtaposition, rule-breaking, fragmentation, and other tools that can stretch our own abilities with the written word.




In this senior English seminar we will be looking at books about those who live at the margins of society. Starting with short stories and moving on to novels and plays, we will read works that examine, expose, even celebrate those on the edges: immigrants, dreamers, fanatics, prophets, the oppressed. The primary texts for the course will be The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka (the bizarre tale of a man who becomes a cockroach), Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Connor (a Southern Gothic text so strange it boggles the mind), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz (a wild, exuberant, and sad novel about a self-described “ghetto nerd” from the Dominican Republic), and the play Angels in America, by Tony Kushner (an epic and elegiac “gay fantasia in five acts”). We will be focusing not just on content but also on technique: how do these writers write their stories? How do their choices affect meaning? etc. Students will also be doing a lot of their own writing, both in and out of class. We will have frequent in-class creative and expository exercises as well as longer out-of-class papers that are both creative and analytical.



  • "Buxton has given me the freedom to be the person I want to be, make the art I want to make, and learn the things I want to learn. At Buxton we learn not only in the classroom, but in the community. We learn how to be good to each other and how to support each other. Buxton has so much to offer students, both inside the classroom and outside of it."
    Sadie Great Barrington, MA
  • “At Buxton you get to focus on what you want to be learning; whether it is social skills or in-depth studying- you learn to take responsibility of your education.”
    Francis Magai
    Francis Magai Troy, NY
  • “Living your education means to not only learn things, but to use what you learn in your everyday life.”
    Naima Nigh
    Naima Nigh Mexico
  • “To me, living your education means to be independent, to take charge, to not be afraid of asking for help, to learn from your peers, to love to learn, to take what you have learned from a loving environment and take it into the world.”
    Kat Hallowell
    Kat Hallowell New Hampshire
  • “Your education is more than just your time in class, it’s your life as a whole. Learning is not limited to a teacher teaching you something in a classroom.”
    Cynder Johnson
    Cynder Johnson Missouri
  • “To me, at Buxton, it’s not boundaries that you make, but the ones you break through.”
    Roy Malone
    Roy Malone New York, NY
  • “At Buxton, I can choose what I want to do with my education. I can design my own path and invest my time studying topics that I’m really interested in.”
    Nora Mittleman
    Nora Mittleman New York, NY
  • “At Buxton you can experience your intellectual development in a community that accepts your perspective of the world.”
    Ben Nigh
    Ben Nigh Mexico
  • “I felt instantly at home when I stepped on the campus. At Buxton, we are in school 24/7. We learn things in the classroom, but we really learn valuable things outside of the classroom. We learn how to work with others and respect each other’s spaces. Our education surrounds us and we learn new things everyday.”
    Emily Woodside
    Emily Woodside Albany, NY
  • “I chose Buxton over public school because I think I function better in a smaller environment. You’re able to get to know students and faculty on a deeper level, which is rare.”
    Charlie Starenko
    Charlie Starenko Williamstown, MA
  • “Students should be happy when they are learning. They should not feel like studying is a burden to them. You learn things from your living space and environment - you are learning every second you are living.”
    Jiayi Cao
    Jiayi Cao China
  • “Buxton has shown me that it is possible to forge close bonds with teachers as well as students. It also gives you the ability to try new things in an environment where there is no judgment.”
    Kristhal Ayala
    Kristhal Ayala Puerto Rico
  • “I chose Buxton for a small community-based education with focus on the individual as part of the world at large, along with the learning settings.”
    Katie McAvoy
    Katie McAvoy Boston, MA
  • “I love the atmosphere and how tightly knit the community is. At Buxton you take what you learn in the classroom and use it in everyday life - you learn from the world around you and see how you can make it better.”
    Cheyanne Williams
    Cheyanne Williams Boston, MA
  • “At Buxton you bring your education into everything you do, and learn important, relevant things that you can utilize all the time.”
    Rebecca van der Meulen
    Rebecca van der Meulen New Lebanon, NY
  • "In the last year, Buxton has become my home. It has provided me with a place where self-exploration is encouraged in and out of the classroom. I have made unbreakable bonds with faculty and my peers."

    Aurora Albany, NY
  • "To me living your education means enjoying it to the fullest. Do the things that make you uncomfortable, like activities, clubs, or sports you wouldn't normally participate in. Like the saying goes, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

    Adrian Boston, MA
  • "Buxton has given me room to fully realize what inspires me and the resources to create it. The next big grade is no longer a constant worry. I have more space to be and do what I want."

    Lola Williamstown, MA
  • "Buxton has given me the freedom to be the person I want to be, make the art I want to make, and learn the things I want to learn. At Buxton we learn not only in the classroom, but in the community. We learn how to be good to each other and how to support each other. Buxton has so much to offer students, both inside the classroom and outside of it."

    Sadie Great Barrington, MA
  • “A sense that everybody matters, that you are in a community where everyone can make a difference and reach their full potential, where you are interdependent and you work together, and most importantly where you understand that you can do whatever you want to do and whatever it is that you do, you have got to make a difference. I think that, more than anything, defines my experience at Buxton.”
    Peter Shumlin
    Peter Shumlin Governor of Vermont, Buxton Alumni

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