Seminar Day: A Wasted Opportunity
by Natalie Perlov on Friday, May 16th, 2014
The annual Community Service or Seminar Day consistently marks the end of the academic year for some. This year, on Wednesday, April 30th, over twenty speakers were invited to enlighten, inspire, and teach Milton’s community through a diverse array of speeches about social entrepreneurship, the Boston Marathon, and the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine. Students and faculty attended four hour-long speeches and had the opportunity to attend a Q&A session for the keynote speaker. While Seminar Day provides a break from students’ and teachers’ regular routines and an opportunity to briefly break out of Milton’s bubble, it could be greatly improved.
The principles behind seminar day have our school’s best interests at heart; however, its structure hinders our ability to truly enjoy the potential opportunities of the day. On one hand, we all get to take a break from the stress of our academic lives, to learn about novel ideas, to deepen our understanding of the world, and to indulge in topics that interest us; on the other hand, after sitting through an hour-long talk in the uncomfortable bleachers of the ACC, we could all use some time to walk around and unwind. Piling on three more hour-long lectures in uncomfortable chairs in locations scattered around campus is not the most effective structure. Students are not only mentally tired from the tsunami of information that four consecutive speeches attempt to impart, but also physically tired from not being able to move around as they usually do. The monotony of the day also detracts from the information students hear. By the second or third speech, most students are not even paying attention anymore; they are bored, tired, hungry, and uncomfortable.
So, how could we refine Seminar Day to truly live up to its potential? We could cut down on the number of speeches we attend and improve the level of our understanding. Each student could choose two one-hour speeches to attend. After each speech, students could have a Q&A session with the speaker, form discussion groups, or write reflections if they are so inclined. If we were to utilize this system, students would spend less time sitting (and probably dozing off), and more time moving around and thinking–making their experiences during the day more meaningful and taking advantage of Seminar Day’s opportunities.
The concept of Seminar Day is a great one. The speeches provide a platform for all of us to expand our cosmopolitan education in an alternative setting to the classroom; however, the day’s monotonous and tiring structure impedes its effectiveness by wearing out students, causing them to tune out the information which they were supposed to be learning. The Seminar Day needs to be reformed, to place more emphasis not on quantity but on quality.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=6318