Phillipian Commentary: What the Squash Racket Overlooked

I love Head of School Day (HOSD) just as much as anybody at Andover. It’s a refreshing break from the long, dark winter term that provides students with a day to regroup and prepare for any major assignments coming up in the final weeks of the term. I love the countless debates and speculations that come up in the days before HOSD is actually announced.

However, with HOSD coming in the final two weeks of classes this year, I think it may have caused more of a disruption than a break. Finals are right around the corner, and by pushing all major assignments back a day, combined with department days and E.B.I. Fridays, the time in between major assignments is significantly shortened to the point of being hard to manage. Even if students do get a much-needed day off, the placement of HOSD this late in the term actually increases the pressure instead of lessening it.

Let me start by saying that I am not in favor of more class periods. I do not believe that extra class periods lead to a dramatic decrease in pressure. However, it isn’t beneficial when, with many tests and major assignments this week, a HOSD takes away a potential review class period or even a test period, causing everything to be shifted back one day. Students in assessment-focused courses are on an especially tight timeline, with many having multiple exams left in the term and only a few classes remaining to cover a significant amount of material.

The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that my Physics class is also canceled on Friday due to it being department day. Sure, some teachers have a day worked in for HOSD, but even for the teachers that do, having it this late in the term throws off the entire schedule and shifts material back. Adrian Lin ’22, a friend of mine, agreed with me, and said it proved inconvenient when “teachers constantly change syllabi irregulating regular homework patterns. Having a test review day for math class being pushed to night time at an inconvenient time when the review day was supposed to be on Monday.”

Furthermore, this placement of HOSD is not mindful of the two-major assignment rule. At Andover, regular classes meet for four times a week, while history courses meet only three times a week, with a red-dot period. That means that there will only be around eight classes left in the term. With HOSD taking off one class period, a history department day on Tuesday (2/12), and E.B.I. Friday taking off first period next week, there is certainly a growing shortage of class periods remaining. This loss of class periods crams together test periods and reduces review time at a time for which students are desperate for extra time in class before finals. When I talked to Emily Warren ’21 after HOSD, she said, “Having HOSD at such a late point in the term really puts intense stress on students, completely shifting their mentality in the final stages of the winter. By having it at such a late time, it actually distracts students more than in years past and forces them to reorient themselves before the end of the term.”

I’ll be the first to admit that there are not many more exciting times in one’s Andover experience than when they’re crammed inside Paresky Commons, waiting for John Palfrey to walk in and raise the glorified squash racket; there is nothing better than feeling the hype slowly build up as people create all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories about why HOSD might be on this day and not on that one (I’m guilty of making some myself). I can even see why headmaster Palfrey pushed back HOSD this year, as it has been a relatively warm winter with little snow so kids did not need an emergency break from the freezing temperatures that typically terrorize the greater Boston Area around this time.

This year’s winter term definitely hasn’t worn on me or the people around me as much, and the school has seemed to be overall less worn out than in years past. Still, some of the help that HOSD was originally intended to provide is lost when it is placed in penultimate week. In the end, perhaps the beauty of HOSD is that it is meant to be unpredictable. The entirety of the school is certainly better off with HOSD, and in the end, no matter if it’s placed before midterms, with long weekend, or even in ultimate week, HOSD is a part of Andover that students will forever be fond of— although I can’t help feel that Monday just wasn’t the time I and many others were hoping for.