What is intersession?

Mountain Connection, March 6, 2023

By: Jed Donnel

In this, my first year of teaching at the SMS Upper School, the question posed by the title has been on my mind lately. I’ll be teaching Intersession in a few weeks, and I need to know what to expect. In essence, Intersession provides the opportunity for our competitive skiers and riders who have needed to miss classes during the winter term to catch up on their academics. Given the demands of the competition season, our athletes have had the option to ‘drop’ two classes during the winter term. Then, while faculty and students are abroad for GS during April, student-athletes make up the coursework they’ve missed within a concentrated schedule: the day is broken into three blocks, each of which is two hours, and students fill two of those three blocks with their courses. They take them each day, too, five days per week, so they end up having ten hours of instruction time per course, per week. Faculty I’ve spoken with widely appreciate the tenor on campus during Intersession, which Eben characterizes as “summer camp meets summer school; it’s very intentional and high caliber, and everyone is brought together by academics. But at the same time it’s quiet and fun, a relaxed focus.” Brian agrees, and adds, “I think the academic focus defines Intersession. The athletes are all here, together; they don’t have training or races, they’re not trying to qualify for the next thing, and they take all of the efforts they put into those aspects and channel them back into their studies.”   

         I certainly like the paradox of an intensely serene intellectual atmosphere, and I know it will be quiet since the student and faculty populations are each reduced by over half. Likewise, Intersession provides faculty who are not attending GS – such as myself – the opportunity to alter our methodologies and experiment with time to deliver a trimester’s worth of content (more, actually, since it’s also the content of the first week of the third trimester) during just four weeks. I’ll reteach my AP Lit course along with Cody’s American Lit; meanwhile, Sophie will take on my Postmodernism course. We’ve all met to discuss content and schedule, and basically, I’m wanting to make sure that Cody can comfortably leave for his GS trip knowing his juniors are in good hands. Teaching a single course for ten hours per week will be an intriguing challenge for me, in turn, and I’m looking forward to solving that puzzle, along with the students.

The Connection