Piece Comment

Review of Summer School

Commentaries can be a wonderful addition to almost any format. They can enlighten, inspire, teach, celebrate, and illuminate. However, if not done well, they can be a painful reminder to listeners that they are missing something better.

Sylvia Maria Gross’s reflection on summer school is well-written and paced. On many levels, it is a fine commentary. However, it has one debilitating flaw: you can see the ending/resolution coming almost as soon as the character is introduced.

The commentary follows Gross through teaching math to 7th grade summer school students. As the piece unfolds, it is obvious once the young girl Jackie is introduced, that the piece will focus on her experience. Further, when Jackie has trouble with math, the commentaries resolution is, again, fairly obvious: that Jackie will overcome her adversities and master long division, achieving some quiet life goal along the way.

With commentaries, as with all good storytelling, you can't lead readers/listeners through the obvious parts of a story. Readers/listeners remember the unexpected moments, the thrill. I kept waiting for this piece to take me somewhere I wasn't anticipating. It never did.