April 23, 2020

The Workshop: Sophie ’20's Week 1 Reflection

In Search of Something to Hold On To
by Sophie ’20, Workshop student

The Workshop at Andover is an immersive term-long learning experience. Spring-term seniors stop all traditional academic courses and instead work closely with peers and faculty on a series of linked, interdisciplinary projects that revolve around a single subject. This term the subject is Community, Class, and Carbon.

The following is a student reflection from the first week of the program. (There are three more student reflections in the Week 1 series: Skylar ’20, Liu ’20, and Isabel ’20. Please click on each student’s name to read their work.)


Sophie ’20 is working from her dining table in Hong Kong and occasionally gazing at ships carrying cargo over the South China Sea.

Heading into week one of the Workshop, week one of spring term, week one of remote learning, I didn’t really know what to expect. With so much change and uncertainty in the world in this time, I suppose I came into the first week looking for something to hold on to amid the chaos.

The first few days of the week were about building habits and rituals, finding my way around systems of communication like Flipgrid and Slack, and readjusting to reading and processing and reflecting in an academic way. I was grateful for the sense of structure that had already returned to my day-to-day within these few short days. I latched on to the feeling of normalcy that Flipgrid provided: the simple act of recording a daily greeting and flipping through everyone else’s 90-second videos made the Workshop feel more and more like a real, tangible community. Connecting with peers on Zoom that first week, be it through virtual dorm meetings, advisory group check-ins, or study sessions with friends, definitely alleviated some of the sadness that came with [interim head of school] Mr. Ventre’s announcement that we would not be returning to campus this spring.

I was even more excited about our first project of the term. Initially, I was looking forward to it because it was something I would have control over, something I could drive and direct, something certain I could focus on to push the uncertainties aside. Tasked with creating an artifact about a community around us, I set out to observe and reflect on potential communities to focus on, one of which included the micro-community of my family.

As part of my observations, I had the chance to sit down and have a long conversation with my grandmother, whom I hadn’t really talked to in months. Chatting with her over tea and scallion pancakes (while abiding by 6-feet-apart social distancing guidelines, of course, since I was under quarantine), I found out more about her life. Albeit unexpectedly, what started out as a simple question about what she watched on television turned into a heart-to-heart about the roots of her childhood traumas. This was a side of my family history I never had the opportunity to learn about as a growing up, whether because it was intentionally hidden or because I simply did not have the vocabulary to understand it. Had school resumed for spring term, I may not have heard these stories for weeks, months, or years.

As boarding school has grown to feel more and more like home in the past four years, I gradually drifted farther away from my home community. And thus, while I was searching for something to hold on to upon returning home, I overlooked the connections, stories, and histories that were hidden in plain sight. After my conversation with my grandmother, I realized that these connections were something to hold on to as well.

I left the conversation struck by the realization of just how much I missed within my home community while I’ve been away at Andover: my younger sister has grown from a wide-eyed first-grader to a quick-witted fourth-grader, just one year away from graduating from primary school; my grandparents, on the other hand, have visibly aged, and looking back I regret not spending enough time with them as I could have during the hasty back-and-forth trips between terms.

Already, the Workshop has pushed me to inspect, reflect, and dig deeper. To question my preconceptions and my habits, to more deeply examine what I may have taken for granted and ground myself within the new reality. Although this spring term is not at all what I envisioned, I am lucky to have the chance to discover and rediscover, to build and rebuild, these missed connections now, amid this pandemic. If this is just week one, I wonder what the rest of the term will bring.

Whatever the outcome, I am grateful for this newfound awareness—at the very least a sense of affirmation that yes, even within all this chaos, I have, and will hopefully continue to discover, things to hold on to and cherish.


To learn more about the Workshop, read Tang Institute Director Andy Housiaux's recent update here.


*We look forward to updating you on the ways we are (re)imagining the Workshop, our connection with students, and our approaches to teaching and learning. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Medium. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Notes on Learning.

Categories: The Workshop, Featured

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