Peer Reference Day 2021

Sarah Plotkin reads her letter aloud for Zach Crampton. Photo by Spencer Goldsmith.

Sarah Plotkin reads her letter aloud for Zach Crampton. Photo by Spencer Goldsmith.

Tasha Sudofsky, Independent Writer

Peer Reference letters are a beloved tradition at Falmouth Academy. In Mrs. In Eleanor Clark’s senior English class, students write small paragraphs or blurbs about 20 of their classmates, remarking on cherished memories, moments of appreciation, and anecdotes of their character. These blurbs are then given to the students anonymously and often are a way for students to share genuine, personal comments with their classmates without any social pressure.

“I am grateful to have inherited the peer reference tradition, in large part because of the spirit of generosity at its core,” said Mrs. Clark. “With college applications and transitions looming, senior fall demands a lot of self-reflection. I think being asked to step back and focus on classmates a bit can provide an important break. This type of writing is challenging and worth practicing. I hope that by the end of the process, the seniors recognize that they can take the close-reading and writing skills that they have refined throughout their years at FA and use them to help others.”

 Receiving pages of blurbs filled with heartfelt words is not only a confidence boost during such a stressful time for seniors but also a beautiful reminder of the strong community at Falmouth Academy.

Mrs. Clark’s incredible spreadsheet and organizational skills came in handy as the blurb process came to a close. With advice and preferences from students noted, Mrs. Clark methodically assigned seniors to extend their short blurb for one classmate into a thorough, page-long reference letter that would be added into their classmate’s college recommendations for their applications. This letter will then be shared aloud at Peer Reference Day and again at graduation in June.

In a usual year, students gather for a potluck brunch at one of their classmates’ houses a few days before the daunting November 1st application deadline to hear their and their classmates’ letters for the first time. It is often an emotional, heartwarming experience as they feel their high school days coming full circle. For the Class of 2022, things continue not to go according to plan as our day was rained out, but thankfully, it was rescheduled to the brisk, but beautiful Friday, November 5. Although we had all read our own letters before they were tucked into our college applications, excitement was still high to listen to the remarks of our classmates.

Our Peer Reference Day was hosted by Senior Class Vice President, Sarah Thieler ’22. As we showed up to the Thielers’, the porch became stacked with sugary sweets, savory breakfast foods, a deluxe bagel array, hot drinks, and of course some of our leftover Halloween candy. Once we all indulged for breakfast, Mrs. Clark handed out letters one by one and students read the letters they had written about a classmate, as we sat bundled in a circle. Students touched on the obvious character traits of their classmates but also deeply personal observations and appreciations. 

Smiles and laughter were contagious throughout the day. Domenic Bowen ’22 compared Ethan Pratt ’22 to an onion, noting that there are layers to Ethan’s character that leave you appreciating even more about him. Domenic’s witty letter left the class in fits of laughter as he shared, “You see, Ethan’s not only a fun person to work with, but just a fun person to be around. Like how Ethan has described himself as having the most blonde energy a brunette can have. You can’t go wrong with an Ethan in your life. He’s like comfort food but in human…ish form.” 

Spencer Goldsmith ’22 wrote an earnest reference for Sarah Plotkin ’22 as he narrated his path of getting to know Sarah. Spencer reflected that “Sarah’s quiet determination and attentiveness, seen so frequently in school, extend outside of the classroom, and work particularly well with her enthusiasm and passion to touch and better all areas of her busy life.”

After hearing all 38 letters, our class reminisced on our years at FA and the bonds we’ve made as we took a walk down to Little Island Beach in West Falmouth to take a class photo. 

Peer References are a staple of the twelfth grade English curriculum and one that I hope stays for generations to come. I am thankful for the opportunity to reflect on the relationships I have with my classmates and am so curious to know what college counselors will think when they read these letters. I know they will be laughing when they hear that Ethan is similar to an onion, and I think they’ll accept him, not only because Ethan is a wonderful applicant for any school, but also to find out if Dominic was correct. You know what? In my opinion, Dominic was spot on.