Horace Mann's Weekly Newspaper Since 1903

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Summer Chemistry: a mixed reaction

Ben Wang

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This summer, instead of getting a relaxing break from school, I took Summer Chemistry, the typical tenth grade science course condensed into a six-week class that entails a vast amount of work and dedication. The course was an amazing experience. Although there were periods of immense stress, the resources available in this immersive program allowed me to enjoy learning a great subject while connecting with so many great people. My amazing friends, helpful teacher, Dr. Mohammed, and inspiring teaching assistants, Matthew Zeitlin ‘17 and Ajay Shyam ‘16, as well as my supportive parents helped me get through those stressful times.  In addition to learning about chemistry, I was able to learn how to better manage competitive environments and appreciate the people who were available to help me.

My classmates were all incredibly intelligent, but since I was surrounded by so many amazing–hence, competitive–people, the environment caused me to worry about my grades. People in my class might say that an A- is a bad grade, which could make others feel self-conscious about their own grades. I was constantly worried about my grades and those of my friends because I knew we would compare them at some point. If my friends received better grades than I did, they would say that my grade was good too, but there was always that definite inkling of pity within their voices. Those moments of subconscious competition created a hierarchical environment in which the better grades you earned, the higher you were on the scale, and that environment caused me to judge myself for the grades that I received.

I felt a lot of stress the day before a major test. There were only three tests in each trimester, and they accounted for 60% of the trimester grade. Since a day of Summer Chemistry was equal to a week of school, there was not much time between these intense assessments.  Although there was a lot of stress sometimes, it taught me a valuable lesson in managing that stress and pressure. With limited time to finished an assignment or prepare for an assessment, it was necessary for me to use my time more efficiently, a skill that will benefit me immeasurably in the future.

Sometimes, the speed of the course would also affect me.  It took me longer to process and understand certain topics, whereas some of my friends picked them up quicker. At times, when I struggled with a topic and the teachers just weren’t getting through to me, I would spend a lot of my own time trying to figure out the problem. Having a strong foundation is extremely important in classes that are fast-paced. If you don’t understand something in the beginning, there will be a lot more of it later in the course, so it’s very important to understand the introductory topics well. I learned not to be afraid to seek help.  My teachers were always willing to spend time with me to clarify something. Rather than spending hours on end trying to figure out the problem by yourself, seek help. Your incredible classmates are also an invaluable resource.

These issues in Summer Chemistry reflect those of the greater Horace Mann culture as well. There are many competitive students that push each other to become the best they can be, but this can create a negative environment. However, this problem is not unique to our school. Every school has competitive people. People should just focus less on grades and more on just learning the material and hopefully, they will learn to enjoy learning.

Summer chemistry students balance the stress that comes with an intensive learning environment.

For me, Summer Chemistry was an incredible experience. My fellow classmates and I learned about managing stress and work. If you have a good work ethic and are fine with receiving a few grades that you are not accustomed to receiving, this is a great class for you. The teachers are very flexible and are willing to help you. Since we saw each other for six weeks, five days a week, and around five to six hours a day, I became closer with many different people, and my existing relationships were strengthened as new friendships developed.

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Horace Mann's Weekly Newspaper Since 1903
Summer Chemistry: a mixed reaction