Fortify the Fortnight

This school year marked the debut of the widely discussed calendar change. To some students and faculty, the new calendar had a salient flaw: the two-and-a-half-week gap left between Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks. Although this period was isolated from the rest of the Winter Term, some teachers were able to creatively transform this short academic period into a successful stretch both in and out of the classroom.

For instance, Noah Rachlin, Instructor in History, and Tracy Ainsworth, Instructor in History and History 300 Course Coordinator, decided to explore emancipation with their History 300 classes through studying primary sources and films, as well as visiting the Addison Gallery of American Art. After approaching the issue for the viewpoints of a variety of different people—from former slaves to plantation owners—students were able to express their opinions creatively through politically-themed cartoons and brief audios from the perspective of those living in the time period studied.

Li Cai-Hurteau and Ying Schmitt, Instructors in Chinese, conducted research with their Chinese 420 and 600-level classes at the Yin Yu Tang (China House at Peabody Essex Museum), funded by an Abbot Grant. The students’ two-week investigations of significant rooms in the house culminated in displays in the Mural Room available to the Andover community.

Diana Figarella-Zawil, Carmen Munoz Fernandez, Instructors in Spanish, and Peter Neissa, Instructor and Chair in Spanish, joined their Spanish 400 and Spanish 401 classes to work together on a Mexican “Film Festival” project. Students watched Spanish-language films and reflected on key themes through daily diary writing. This activity allowed students to explore important issues that Mexico faces, while also sharpening their language skills.

These few examples illustrate the innovation and initiative needed to take advantage of this brief interval. While some argue that students face decreased motivation before Winter Break, as well as limited retention after, there is certainly no need for that time to be wasted. In fact, the revised schedule now offers those two and a half weeks as an unparalleled and unique opportunity for different—and innovative—ways of teaching and learning. Whether this period is used in the future as a so-called “modular term” or for teachers to simply seize this opening, perhaps this time is just what Andover students need to revitalize them after the Fall Term and inspire them before the Winter Term.

This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXVI.