Beating The Schoolbook Blues


Tristan Gillia, Opinion Editor

What is the first thing that leaps to mind when you think of school? Grades? Tests? That’s what elbows its way into my mind when I think of school. All of the work and the stress about how well I’m doing, worries about whether I’ll get into a good college – it all marches in and takes over my mind like an invading army. I shudder, and my anxiety persists. And, if the conversations around me in school are any indication, I’m not alone. I know worrying about grades shouldn’t be what school is about. When we think about school, it should be with a happy thought.  Along with all the work, stress, and socializing, school is also a place of learning and curiosity. A place where kids go to discover, to learn about the world and themselves.

That is why I really enjoyed Spring Intensives. A new program at Berkeley Carroll this year, Spring Intensives was basically a two-week block set aside for various teacher combinations to teach a very in-depth course, focused on a single subject of their choice. Out of the many courses available, each student chose which one he or she wanted to take. And there were so many to choose from – from different areas of English, to Science, and Theater. We could choose a subject we knew little to nothing about or something that we had been exploring for years.

I chose Human Origins with Mr. Smith and Ms. Smith (no, they are not married or related). I chose it because I remembered learning about human evolution kind of briefly in middle school, and I remembered how our exploration of that subject had sparked my love of science. In school, I often feel that there is an incredibly tight schedule of classes to complete, and the teacher has to keep driving forward to make it through all the units before the school year ends. Everything is focused on reaching the finish line, and there never seems to be much time to veer off that track, to delve deeply into things. Getting to take these in-depth courses was the very opposite — a time to explore further into a topic than ever before. I wanted to know more about evolution and that is exactly what happened. I watched two documentaries, read a book called  Before the Dawn by Nicholas Wade and excerpts from Mapping Human History  by Steve Olson, went to the Museum of Natural History twice, and immersed myself in a single subject for two solid weeks. But even more than that, though, I will take my reignited spark for my love of learning back.

One mind-blowing fact: Did you know that the genetic code of every single man alive today can be traced back through time and generations to one single individual man (Genealogical Adam),  and every woman alive today can be traced back to one single woman (Mitochondrial Eve)? They weren’t related, but they were both from Ethiopia. Amazing.

Having the rare opportunity to learn simply because I wanted to know more about our evolution was incredibly refreshing – not to mention much needed. By SpringI was exhausted. March can be a hard time of year because you can feel the warm weather coming and you are just physically and mentally drained. This is also the time when juniors are getting ready for the SAT’s and seniors are anxiously waiting to hear back from colleges. Everyone is on edge.The Spring Intensives were a great educational break, a nice change from our normal schedule and they made me excited to come to school and to learn – solely for the sake of learning.  And that’s what school is all about, right?