From the Principal: One School-One Book, “The Fault of Our Stars”

Dear Newton South Families,

I would like to take the opportunity to extend my appreciation to everyone who has helped our school year start so smoothly. So THANK YOU to faculty, staff, students, and parents!

Friday, September 21, will be our third annual One School-One Book event. As you know, our selection this year, The Fault in Our Stars, is a powerful story detailing the relationship between two teenagers who meet at a support group for young people with cancer.

On the 21st, students will begin in advisory at 7:40 AM to start the day, and it is here that students will receive their room assignments for the two sessions (see explanation below). We will then have an all-school assembly in the field house where Jothy Rosenberg, author and extreme sports enthusiast, will share his experience as a two-time cancer survivor.

Every student will then attend two sessions:

  1. A “book group” in which small groups of students, led by a teacher or community member, will discuss their thoughts about the themes presented in The Fault in Our Stars
  2. One panel discussion of some issue that TFiOS touches on (see below)

As a reminder, this event is not for parents, as we do not have the space to accommodate additional guests.

I especially love the idea that the primary reward for reading The Fault in Our Stars is not a grade on a test, but context for a conversation with other students and adults. This is the kind of learning that is not measured on the MCAS or an AP test; rather, this learning builds community, understanding, and shared responsibility. I am proud to be a part of it!

If you have not already, I encourage your entire family to read The Fault in Our Stars, so that you, too, might join in the conversation.

Best regards,
Joel Stembridge
Principal, Newton South High School

Students were asked to share their preference for one of the following eight panels:

Relationships
Hazel and Augustus had unique challenges as they fell in love, but some real-life couples have overcome similarly steep hurdles to make their relationships work.   The hurdles could be race, gender, religion, illness, etc.

Science
Vast resources have been devoted to cancer research in the past 50 years, and scientists have only started to unlock its mysteries. A panel of cancer researchers explains what we know about the disease and what we have yet to learn and a survivor tells her story.

Stories
If Hazel and Augustus’ story moved you at all, you understand the power of a good story. Hear from journalists and storytellers – people who make their livings telling other people’s stories – about why they do it and why stories have held such a central place in cultures throughout human history.

Heroes and Survivors
Part of what made the relationship between Hazel and Augustus work is that they each found something admirable in the other and they shared mutual admiration for Peter Van Houten. Who are our heroes?

Culture and Religion
Every race and ethnicity has its own unique practice of the ritual surrounding death. This panel will have members of the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist faiths sharing how their religion explains the transition from life to beyond.

Sports
Athletics asks us to push our bodies to our natural limits. What happens when your body has more severe limits than others? Hear from athletes who have pushed themselves to compete at high levels despite disabilities.

Arts
Music and art, at their best, deal with fundamental questions about life – and death. A panel of artists, musicians and other creative types explains how art is used to process the pain of death and grieving. And how music and art empowers those who are ill.

Humor and Irony: Can Irony Save Us?
In The Fault in our Stars, Hazel and Augustus, like most teenagers, use humor and irony to shield themselves from pain. In our own lives, this is something we all do on a daily basis. This panel seeks to explore how humor can help us resist or recover from physical and emotional pain.