Retreat Changes

As the school year winds down, it seems natural that students would acknowledge the growth they’ve had over the past eight-or-so months. I walk through the freshman hallway and see people talking like old friends despite not having known each other before Latin; similarly, I’ll walk down the senior hall and see lifers and newcomers interacting without issue. While many aspects of the school contribute to intra-grade bonding, one seems to be one of, if not the most, influential: grade retreats. Though the structure of said retreats varies from year to year and grade to grade, it seems obvious that after sharing two or three days together, a group of students would feel more united. So, if this is the case, why are some teachers clamoring for the retreats to be nixed?

“It’s a matter of effectiveness,” said Mr. Fript, “I wonder whether the retreats actually do anything for the class in terms of bonding or whatnot. Additionally, I know many teachers believe that missing school for those days is disruptive to classes.” Mr. Fript brings up a few good points. When I was a freshman, the first week of school seemed like a three-day orientation; as a sophomore, however, I discovered that learning begins immediately. In my math class, for example, I was assigned a problem set and expected to present the following day. Thus, it makes sense that the retreats’ timing isn’t the most ideal for teachers wishing to begin lessons right away, as students spend the retreats and weekend away from school for such a long period of time that most (if not all) of what they learned is forgotten by the time they return to classes.

Regarding Mr. Fript’s other argument about the effectiveness of the retreats, I decided to speak to the senior dean, Nick Baer, to discuss the issue. “Of course, as dean, I think that the retreats provide a lot of bonding for the grades,” he began. “Especially the senior retreat, which isn’t widely discussed because of the content, but I really think it’s beneficial for the students who experience it. I understand that the timing isn’t perfect, but I do think that the retreats should be kept in place.” Mr. Baer also said that, as the dean of the class of 2014, he witnessed firsthand the transformation and tightening of the grade over the years with the help of retreats. I spoke with a few seniors who wished to remain anonymous due to the similar vagueness surrounding the senior retreat, and they echoed his sentiments, saying that their retreat this past fall had really helped their class become closer.

For the sophomores, however, the feeling wasn’t the same. I was fortunate enough to get a word in with Brianna Yang, who, while running for PE, told me that she didn’t think our retreat was all that great. “It was your typical retreat,” she said. Despite being out of breath, and after some further prompting, she continued. “We didn’t really do much, and I don’t think we bonded at all.” This is a hard opinion to disagree with— many other sophomores said the same, insisting that it seemed like we were “wasting time” by being on retreat, “playing unnecessary games” and “having little time with people outside of our advisory.”

I must admit, I did agree with many of these statements. But in all fairness, the sophomore retreat has never been a large event for many students of the Latin School. I have much fonder memories of my freshman retreat, during which I broke a stranger’s hammock, performed a trust fall onto scared members of my advisory, and played numerous rounds of cards. Some of my closest friends at school today are people I first met on the retreat, and I’m ridiculously grateful that we shared those experiences. Thus, I think the debate surrounding the retreats is one that should be addressed, but with the perspective that many students create lasting relationships beginning from a single weekend in rural Illinois. Perhaps the sophomore (and from what I’ve heard, junior) retreats leave a little more to be desired, and perhaps the dates could be rescheduled so that teachers wouldn’t have felt like the first few school days were wasted, but according to this reporter, there are a lot of benefits that come from having spent a few days with a group of people with whom you will share only a few years of your life. If nothing else, at least you’ll be able to go zip lining in peace.