Final(ly) Free

Teachers and students enjoy mental health break

Colin Batliner, Staff Writer

Teachers and students around the school took a sigh of relief because they no longer had to plan for many — or any — finals at all last semester because of the school’s decision to hold off finals for the semester, except in AP and college-level classes.
As a college-level math teacher Erica Johnson still had to plan for finals this year so her students can earn their college credits and be prepared for college in the future.
“We’re way behind where we need to be and they’re not going to cut any of the curriculum,” Johnson said. “I’ve had to cut out a lot of review and we don’t get as much practice as a normal year, so that’s been the worst part is that the AP classes get hit hard. It’s been difficult for students to even test into college level classes coming off the spring.”
Similar to most students, Johnson said that finals week causes her stress mostly because of the 15 hours of grading that she has to do, although it is not to the same level of stress as when she was a student.
“It’s stressful in the sense that you need to prepare your students to do well, but also for college level classes, it takes me a really, really long time to grade,” Johnson said.
The approach to finals week is a major cause of stress to numerous students and Johnson has seen a change in mental health in daily school activities — even without finals — due to COVID-19 and remote learning.
“Remote learners have to have a lot more self-discipline than I think they’re used to so they get hit the hardest,” Johnson said. “Even the students that are here, it’s frustrating having to deal with going back and forth with online if you have to quarantine.”
With so many stressful events this year, Johnson understands the need for a reduced number of finals and said she recognizes how tiring the school year has been.
“I know especially for teachers the exhaustion levels are way higher than normal, and I’m assuming for students it’s similar,” Johnson said.
Students such as junior Joaquin Barrera hope that without finals they will be able to rekindle their mental health and relieve some of the stress that COVID-19 has put on them.
“I believe that without finals this year my mental health will significantly improve,” Barrera said. “The final exams put crazy amounts of stress on all students, and now with COVID-19 finals would just be another unnecessary issue to deal with.”
Principal Maureen Engen played a key role in the decision-making process to remove finals in non-college level courses and said that cumulative exams would not be effective for this semester.
“We came up with the decision that because this semester was shorter and there were so many remote learners with a different way of learning that it would be more beneficial for students and staff to not give the semester exam that usually covers everything,” Engen said.
Engen said she is glad that students are allowed to be in school but has noticed that it is more challenging than ever for students to learn and for their mental health.
“In all my years of education this is the first time that students are actually disappointed if they can’t be in school, it’s amazing,” Engen said. “Our counselors have had a significant increase in the amount of contacts they have had with parents and students, and that can be from anxiety, depression, or just unsureness of the future.”
She has noticed that teachers and students were forced to adjust to the current tough circumstances of the world and they have done it well.
“We’ve had no other choice but to adapt,” Engen said. “It’s almost like you’re in survival mode. You have to adapt at home and you have to adapt at school to the new rules. No one ever dreamed this would happen.”