A year ago, we sat in our advisory groups and discussed last year’s summer reading “Doing School”. Yet, it seems that a year later, we are still “doing school”. We still ask each other for test questions. We still take tests without reading the book (in this case the summer reading). Summer reading reflections are still ineffective.
The format for summer reading reflections done in class have been transferred to social studies classes including History, Marketing, and Economics. While these formats allow a deeper analysis of the issues presented in the book from a societal perspective, it is still lacking the necessary conversations about serious topics, that allow students to become sincere about pressing issues, such as academic stress, racism, and inequality.
As I sat down on the first day of my English class, I was surprised to see that there were no summer reading tests in that class. So much about critical thinking is about forcing the next question out. And no matter how much “doing school” it is, forcing the next question and making the summer reading tests available to everyone would have kept the status quo with how people are processing summer readings — not that summer reading reflection can’t be better.
Some students did not take social science courses, so they did not take these tests either. Instead, they were invited to be tested by Mr. Lowman. It’s a good thing that everyone is getting tested, but classes offer potential for further discussion, and a side testing does not supplement that potential.
Mixed Advisory discussion was closer to a sincere talk, and shows a clear improvement and willingness on the part of the administrators to take time to generate the sincerity necessary for issues discussed in the readings; however, the true difficulty of sincere discussion is still not gone. Without escaping the format of having teachers initiate a conversation, the students may never talk about it themselves in their free time. The issue is still passion.
TAS students are not voiceless individuals. Those who love sports talk about sports. Those who love math love math. Those who love language, music, science, art, gaming, love whatever they love. It is undoubtedly factual that every aspect of life and students’ passion cannot escape the topics brought up in summer readings. It is because of this, that a true investment of resources by the Upper School is necessary to create a specialized yet decentralized system for students to read at least one book they care about that at the same time ties back to the school’s promoted ideologies. By utilizing individual teacher mentoring and researching greater reading options, the school may hope to revamp summer reading, making it a passion, not a pain. Reading different books also makes it easier for conversations to be initiated as sharing news is an easier entrance to comparative analysis.
It is true that students do not always know what best to read, but a guided and joint decision between the teacher and student, not simply approving student’s own selections, will ensure quality individualized reading for students.
This is indeed a great concession on the part of the school and great usage of resources; however, the resource is very much there, and the effect of embedding passion into scholarly discussions is priceless. Frankly, few talk about the implication of COVID-19 on colored minority child education and its effect on mental health on a Friday afternoon out with friends (neither do I), but I had a classmate, during a research paper, cut into the issue of racism from the topic of NBA culture.
Students are equipped with the numerous books we read and the analytical skills from class, yet philosophical conversations students aren’t used to having always bring a bit of embarrassment with it. This is the barrier. Yet, no one will feel embarrassed or out of place when talking about passion.
The thing so great about the rigorousness of TAS education is that while talking about how hot someone is, it becomes a joke that they denature protein (from Biology). So we need to change summer reading reflections to be like this. We need to make students’ individual passions like the topic of someone’s hotness so that it becomes a day-to-day conversation that can elevate our mental experience, so that summer reading reflections can start to be effective.