Teachers should reflect on finals week

Kris Long, Print Editor-in-Chief

As finals week rolls around, students expect to begin wrapping their class’s content and reviewing for the final exam before the semester’s end. Many start counting down the assignments and planning for how they will get it all done in time. 

Along with that, most expect to know what faces them coming into the final week of school, whether it be what tests to study for or projects to get done. What they don’t — and shouldn’t have to — expect is teachers introducing new content and giving out surprise assignments on the last week of school.

It is the opinion of The Mentor Editorial Board that, while students need to understand that some teachers are obligated to complete a curriculum, most teachers should avoid introducing new content and giving assignments without notice on finals week. 

Introducing a new unit during the last week of school and putting it on the final exam doesn’t give students who don’t grasp it the first time a chance to ask for help or study to help themselves gain understanding. This is compounded by being one of the busiest weeks of the year, so those who might normally tackle a difficult concept with little stress don’t have time to do so. Because some students don’t have time to learn on finals week they may completely miss parts of the curriculum or cram instead of committing it to memory, which defeats the point of spending time teaching it in the first place. 

It is understandable that a teacher might get to the end of the semester and run out of time, but still need to get through a unit to stay on pace. However, rushing through a unit to stay on track for May is not worth it if students aren’t going to gain anything from the unit. Simply checking a box doesn’t mean students have learned something, and that will become a problem when future units build off of what was supposed to be learned in just a few busy days. It is likely students — and some stressed teachers — would be better off dropping a few things from the curriculum so that the core parts of a class are covered well rather than every detail of a course filled hurriedly. 

Even if teachers aren’t introducing new material, giving unexpected small assignments on finals week sidetracks students from the more important final projects and tests, leading to more stress and lower-quality finals. On finals week, teachers should be focusing on lessons that sum up four months worth of work rather than teaching as they would any other week. 

Beyond not covering new content, having time to review past units in-class is also beneficial to students. Coming back to a subject gives a chance to iron-out pieces students missed earlier in the semester and refreshes their memory, making them more likely to understand it long-term and for the end-of-year comprehensive final. Along with that, many high school students will need help reviewing content because they haven’t fully developed studying skills yet, so taking a few class periods to teach them those skills will help them succeed on the final and build an important academic skill. 

All of that said, students cannot expect to have the whole month of December to stop learning content and begin reviewing for an exam, nor can they complain if teachers don’t give them a full week in class to work on a final project. Teachers have a responsibility to teach content, and that should take most of the semester. What needs to be remembered, however, is that in a week with so much happening, lessons aren’t being absorbed. Teaching new concepts and giving small assignments in the home stretch of a stressful year isn’t doing anyone much good compared to the benefits of time to review.