Once, I wondered why finals cause so much stress. I thought and contemplated; I wished and wanted; I examined and imagined life without them, and then I realized. Life without finals would be a life of perfection; life without them could help make student life a pleasant one. And yet, as I thought more, I found another question yet to be answered: why must the weeks before finals be so stressful? At IMSA in particular, the final weeks of the semester often become a living Hell for teachers and students alike, as instructors race to finish the course material. The overwhelming amounts of homework and projects push students to the limit, testing the boundaries of experience, skill, and wisdom. And we do all of it, for what? A poorly written, last-minute paper? An unsatisfactory mark on the final test of the semester? The weeks leading up to finals create unneeded and unwanted stress, leaving teachers and students exhausted and unnecessarily straining important relationships; the plan for these weeks must be changed, so that students can better cope with the stress of finals and perform on them to the best of their ability.
Being a first-semester sophomore, I have never experienced finals at IMSA, but I can anticipate what they are like, and it goes without saying that I am not excited for them. These last few weeks have been the busiest of the year for all students, and the need for a break is imperative. However, the stress created by these weeks is something that can be avoided, by both teachers and students. The first and most important step towards avoiding this stress must be taken by students, as it is the student’s responsibility to manage his or her own time. One of the easiest things to do is to begin assignments early. This idea is beaten and broken over our heads so many times that by now it is a song that goes in one ear and straight out the other, but in actuality, it is an idea with the potential to monumentally decrease the strain put on our lives. In retrospect, I have noticed that the best work always is the product of an early start and a lot of effort. Yet I have also noticed that, sometimes, starting early is nearly impossible. Having received large amounts of work in nearly every class, students often find it difficult to manage time wisely. Important as time management may be, though, one person can only do so much.
Teachers also play a role in managing student stress. The passion displayed by IMSA’s academic faculty shows that teachers truly care about their students and want to see them succeed. However, piling on homework and projects is simply setting us up for failure, especially first semester sophomores who have never experienced IMSA finals week. Something that I believe many teachers don’t realize is the fact that there are other classes besides their own, and, important as the class may be, others count, too. To ask for less would be unreasonable, but advocating a conscious effort to distribute the work more evenly throughout the semester and avoid a last-minute crunch is something that is easily achievable. By managing the amount of work teachers give their students—especially during the last weeks of the semester—they are able to allow students to focus on the other things that matter: finals.
In a compound effort by both IMSA’s teachers and its students, we may be able to lift a portion of the tension placed on students’ shoulders and allow them to truly succeed. Together, we can create an environment that promotes thorough, analytical thinking and maximizes students’ potential to change the world. By beginning early and distributing the workload more evenly, we are able to do just that. IMSA works to develop brilliant, ethical leaders that change the world, but in order to advance the human condition, IMSA must first advance its students’ condition.