Teachers gear up for school’s first J-Term

French film and culture will be just one of many options


Melissa Sheppard

Mr. Gary Spurgin reviews his preparations for J-Term French class. The class will be cover French films and food taught by him and Mrs. Kathy Darnell. Part of preparation includes choosing films for the class to watch and organizing recipes both teachers believe can teach students about French culture.

Daniel Kent, Reporter

With the second semester coming to a close, many students look forward to a relaxing Christmas break, spending time with family and celebrating the new year. 

But unlike past years, when students return to the Hill after break, they will participate in the first J-Term. 

This two-week-long term will take place from Jan. 3 to Jan. 14. Students had the opportunity to choose between two one-week courses or one two-week course. Vice Principal for Academics Mr. Mark Matthews wrote in an email, “I hope every student gets to do something they are passionate about, have a great time and learn some new skills.”

Matthews, along with other educators, has spent the last few months organizing J-Term. From figuring out what course or courses each individual student will take to the basic logistics, Matthews said, “Planning for J-Term has been going great. As with anything new, organizing J-Term has been a learning experience.” 

J-Term school days will begin with classes starting at 9 a.m. However, Matthews said, “AP classes will be meeting on a rotating schedule that begin at 8 a.m.” He explained that some teachers have decided to offer asynchronous recordings of the class. 

Students who are taking the internship or job shadow J-Term will enter their attendance electronically. As J-Term is a graduation requirement, all students must be present every day. Matthews said that the term is a pass/fail grade. 

The entire school will gather on Jan. 6 to celebrate Mass for St. André Bessette’s Feast Day. 

Each J-Term is unique and students can explore their long-held passions or a newly found interest. 

One such J-Term is Food and Film in Francophonie, Allez! (FFIFA), which will be taught by French teacher Mr. Gary Spurgin and Spanish and French teacher Mrs. Kathy Darnell. Spurgin said that the course will incorporate French films and an analysis of the foods that are in them. After watching documentaries, feature films and movies, students will cook simple French recipes. Students will be put into teams to collaborate on making the dishes. 

Whoever it is taking the course will look back on it and have an appreciation for what they are capable of doing.”

— Mr. Gary Spurgin

Spurgin hopes that FFIFA will broaden the students’ palettes, strengthen their culinary abilities and spark an interest in French film. He said, “I hope they leave with a toolbox of recipes that they can use at home to prepare for their family and a knowledge of film from French speaking countries, not just (from) France.” 

Like Matthews, Spurgin is eager to be a part of the first J-Term, but he expressed that there is always some uncertainty with newness. He said that FFIFA “will be very culturally enriching and a lot of fun, but also (students will be) learning skills that maybe you wouldn’t learn in a regular classroom.” 

Spurgin said that he and Darnell look at visiting local French and Haitian restaurants. Additionally, local French chefs may come to do culinary demonstrations for the class. “I think it’s one of those things that once whoever it is taking the course will look back on it and have an appreciation for what they are capable of doing,” Spurgin said. FFIFA is just one of the many unique and educational J-Term courses.

Regarding the J-Term dress code policy, Matthews said, “For students on campus, it is the regular dress code, unless the teacher says otherwise. to accommodate a specific activity.” Courses such as hiking, farm life and yoga and the creative life could need athletic or outdoor attire as opposed to the school’s traditional uniform.

Due to the ever-evolving pandemic, there has been no decision made on mask requirements yet, but Matthews said, “Covid protocols have forced us to think about the ‘what ifs.’”

J-Term will be a learning process for all, with teachers navigating the new learning environment and students receiving in-depth instruction on unique topics and ideas. Matthews said, “I am looking forward to J-term kicking off a great second semester of classes. I think students are going to love these opportunities.”