By Sean Harris ’11
As the first semester rapidly winds to a close, it can be easy for students to catch themselves daydreaming in class about their Christmas vacation.
However, there is one final hurdle that a student must overcome before their Christmas break fantasies can be fulfilled. This hurdle comes in the form of final exams.
Final exams, which run three days during the last week of first semester stand between students and their freedom. There is no doubt that final exams cause stress in the community; the question becomes is it enough to warrant a change.
“Is the structure that we have right now perfect? Not necessarily,” said Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction Mr. Seamus Walsh. “But do I think that final exams are a necessary piece to a college preparatory school? Yeah, I think so.”
Despite this, Mr. Walsh said he recognizes some potential negative effects of finals.
“Potentially, a negative effect of a final exam is that a student undoes some really good work throughout 17 or 18 weeks and through not studying or not preparing undermines his own potential,” Mr. Walsh said. “One could argue that potentially, if the stakes are too high there is potential for an unfair weight placed on a final exam … I don’t think any of our final exams are weighted that high, but that could certainly be a potential.”
English teacher Mr. Tom Danforth ’78 said he can see both sides to the debate.
“Obviously the negative effect of final exams is the stress that students go through,” Mr. Danforth said. “I also think that there are positive effects to that because it teaches people the value of organizing, of taking notes, maybe even of reviewing notes earlier so they don’t have so much stress on them … I can appreciate both sides to it.”
According to Mr. Danforth, students aren’t the only ones who suffer from the stress of finals.
“Our stress, or at least my stress as an English teacher, comes after you guys turn in the final exams because then we have to grade it.” Mr. Danforth said. “When you guys finish your tests, we don’t start our Christmas break necessarily; we still have our work to do.”
With students and teachers feeling the stress of finals, should Brophy do away with finals?
“Institutionally, we’re not there yet,” Mr. Walsh said. “I think someday what I would love to see is final exams isolated in a week. In a perfect world I’d like us not to have classes meet Monday or Tuesday, but time for kids to prepare, teachers available for tutoring and for help.”
Though he recognizes negative effects, Mr. Danforth said that he wouldn’t change anything.
“No, I don’t think that I would change it because it’s not reflective of how colleges are,” Mr. Danforth said. “And when you guys go off to college if we scheduled it so that your exams here were more spread out so it was a little less stressful you’re still going into a college environment. The schools have multiple exams in a short period of time, and it is a very stressful period … I don’t know there’s much we can, or should, do about that.”