The Final Crunch

If you are lucky enough to be reading this article, then you should be proud to have survived this week. What had been a sincere and genuine attempt by the school and faculty to alleviate some of the stress and burden of the now departed Deans’ Weeks, has instead brought about a week that has left many of us swamped. At a time when most students are craving vacation and are nearing the breaking point after a long term, it is misguided to have so much work and so much stress at the very end. The school should be commended for attempting to assuage the workload of the end of the term, but its attempt does not appear to be successful. Talk to most students this week, especially any Upper, and you will find them with upwards of three major assignments and as many as five. Whether these assignments are spaced out over the week or all bunched up into a couple of days depends on the student, but it virtually guaranteed that few of us will be relax or wind down this week. Few students can brag about how little work they had or how much sleep they were able to get this week. For the most part, the teachers are exceedingly accommodating to these workloads and are often more than willing to help us through this week, but one still has to wonder why we must have so many major assignments packed together in such a short time. One of the root causes of this stress is the way tests and major assignments are structured. Most classes have one such assignment every two to three weeks and thus a pattern emerges over the term of alternating weeks of difficulty and corresponding levels of fluctuating stress. By the end of the term, however, teachers need to get in that last major assignment. They cannot assign it after Thanksgiving Break, so most are left with the week before; thus all the work piles up. Amazingly, it seems that the number of finals that a student has does not affect the amount of work due before Thanksgiving. Whether someone has five finals or one, everyone seems to be swamped. The school attempted to reform the old system and make the end of term less stressful and less confusing. Deans’ Week and Finals week left many students overloaded, teachers confused, and everyone cranky. Having only experienced the beginning of the new end of term schedule, it does not seem to be much of an improvement. There is still the same amount of stress at the exact moment when we cannot handle it and we have more assignments in two weeks rather than what we had in three. The question, therefore, is whether there is any way to improve the end of the term. Perhaps teachers, or even departments, could find a means to share their plans for due dates and thus space them out. Students would do better, be happier, and everyone would be calmer if they did not have to cram in the last week. Furthermore, one has to wonder why we even have major assignments so close to the end of the term. With final exams and final assignments due in the space of only a few weeks, why are we having so many big assignments so close to the end? All Andover faculty have an amazing passion for their subjects and for their classes, but they seem to occasionally fail to remember how every teacher also has a similar passion for their own courses. Most teachers think the same way, plan their lessons in similar manners and thus plan for the last test or paper right before the break. Thus, almost all teachers dole out the last major work, cram in the last few chapters, and generally hasten to the finish line at the exact same time. Of additional importance is the mindset of the student body right before break. I do not believe I am alone in saying that I am overworked and exhausted right now. I, alongside the rest of the student body, need a vacation. I have been running at my very limits over the past few weeks and have not seen any respite. Pushing more work on us in this already depleted state does not make sense. Why must classes have so much work at the end: when we are exhausted, overworked and cranky? Grades are coming down to the wire, teachers are rushing to fit in the final lessons, students are worn out from the term and yet we are still left with a final mountain to climb. Sadly enough, even after surviving this week, we are still left with Assessment Week and all of its hard work and stress. Forget major assignments, now we have final exams. One has to wonder why, for all the genuine concern by the school and by the faculty whether the end of term is always going to be hell. Is the schedule completely irrelevant? Should the end of the term always be a time when students and teachers are overworked while they are already being tired and on-edge? I think everyone hopes otherwise, but events suggest just that. It seems that part of the Andover experience, and especially the “Upper Experience,” is to survive most of the longest term and then be left with an even bigger mountain to climb at the end.