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One School One Book inspires South

By Hye-Jung Yang
Published: September 2010

In past years, South students would read the all-school summer reading book over vacation and return to school in September to discuss and write about the book in their English classes. This year, however, in an effort to bring the entire school together, the English department decided to do hold an all-school event centered around This I Believe II called One School, One Book.
English department head Brian Baron, who drew up the initial proposal for the event, worked closely with English teacher David Weintraub, the administration, and the rest of the English department to set up the event.
“I really wanted to bring the community together, not only around books, but in general, Baron said. “I wanted a natural way to talk about ideas¦ we were committed to trying to do something for everyone and to draw the whole school together.
The event took place September 24 in the field house, with Principal Joel Stembridge reading his own This I Believe essay and a video of co-editor Dan Gediman talking about the importance of the book and thanking South for discussing it. The date of the event, originally set for September 10, the week of Rosh Hashanah, was moved to two weeks later in order to accommodate Jewish students who were observing the holiday.
“As it turned out, it was really good that we didn’t [hold the event on the 10th], Baron said. “We just wouldn’t have had time to do as well as we did it otherwise.
After the introductions in the field house, students split up to hear South students, parents, and other adults read their own This I Believe essays at different panels on a variety of themes, including the arts, politics and social action, and the environment.
Students then returned to their homerooms to work on their own essays.
Baron believes the event lived up to its original expectations. “I was really happy with the way it worked out, he said. “After the event, people were in the hallways talking about their experiences. There was an overwhelmingly positive response, especially from upperclassmen.
Among these students was senior Alissa Sage, who attended a panel on love. “I thought it was great that we got to choose a panel that we were interested in, and I loved hearing from the different panelists, she said. “There was such a wide spectrum of people, specifically with the seminar I went to, and I really enjoyed the different views about the same topic of love.
Sophomore Yoko Fukumara, who attended a panel on the arts, found the event inspiring. “I liked [the seminar] because I could connect with it, because it was the arts and I do music, she said. “It kind of encouraged me to work harder because there were people who had succeeded in their different fields.
Other South students wish that they could change a few aspects of their experiences. Senior Tomer Reiter, for example, felt that the event was not personal enough to make the impact it set out to make. “The seminars and homeroom discussions were supposed to fix that, I suppose, but my seminar had interesting speakers who spoke for 20 minutes and was just followed up with students stubbornly defending their beliefs.
Other students, despite enjoying the event overall, wish that they had more opportunity for debate and discussion.
“[Although] it was a relaxing break from the usual pattern of school days¦ I would have felt better if an argument or conflict had arisen, senior Shervin Rezaei said. “There was no real incentive for debate.
Despite minor concerns, Baron plans to hold a similar event next year, hoping to create a committee that includes the president from each class – freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior – and ask each to choose a book.
“There are always going to be things to change, he said. “[Next year,] I’d love to find a way for everybody to choose something they’re interested in¦ I’d like everyone to have a choice.

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