In My Life

Hell Week


Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

In My Life – Hell Week

Remember how in Middle and Lower School the day before a break was filled with games, movies, and fun? I do. I remember going into the last week of school before spring break thinking about nothing but vacation, never worrying about tests or projects. 

When I got to high school, I was aware that the workload would be considerably and understandably heavier. I didn’t anticipate, however, the fluctuation of workload and the heavy increase placed on students before breaks. I call the period between February and spring break Hell Week(s), and I think a majority of the student body can empathize with me on just how much work we have to do. Every teacher is scrambling to complete units, piling projects on top of reading on top of homework and tests until my to-do list becomes a mess of anxiety constantly surrounding me.

The worst week of the seven is the last. I found myself studying for a math test, history in-class-essay, and English paper ALL on Thursday. There are five days in the school week and a whopping ten in the two weeks before break, but somehow, all my assignments seem to fall back-to-back on the same day. I empathize with teachers who have to complete units for four different grades in one or two weeks, but the general lack of communication is putting an unnecessary strain on students and our mental health. 

As a person with anxiety, specifically test anxiety, I can feel my heart rate triple any time I think about the countless things I have to do in the week before spring break. I’ve tried all the methods in the book: square breathing, thinking about all the things I have to look forward to, knowing that of course, my grades do not define me as a person, yet I am still overcome by an overwhelming amount of anxiety when it comes to this last week before break. It feels like a somewhat lower-stakes finals but instead of a two hour break in between tests, I have additional work to do and little time to study. Teachers are cramming three weeks of curriculum into one or two days in order to finish up a unit and assess us on it rather than spending time doing review and practice. I know there has to be a better way for teachers and for students so that teachers aren’t rushing to complete units, and students are neither taking five tests in one day nor spending time over break studying. 

I don’t claim to have any background in education, so I understand that this may not be an option, but do we really need to be doing one unit up until the Friday before break? Hypothetically, could teachers be done teaching their unit or be at some good stopping point, say two or three weeks before break and then have tests and projects spread out over a longer period of time? Before winter break in my English class, we finished the book we were reading before the week of break and had also finished the project for it. Instead of introducing something new or doing something non-English-related, my class spent the week reading and writing poetry. We were alleviated from the stress of piling another essay or project on top of other class work and still using our class time productively.

The downside of this method is that it’s simply unrealistic in most of my classes. Somehow, teachers are always in a rush to get to a good stopping point in a unit evidently stuck with very few dates for us to take tests. Even with a few dates though, I know that our assessments could be spread out better using a very simple method: communication. I have had a few experiences where my teachers have asked me what I have going on in my other classes and if the day they are assigning a test for is a day where I have a lot of other academic commitments. If our teachers were better at communicating with the students, the disconnect and the days full of tests would disappear. Our tests could be spread out over the week resulting both in less stress and more time to study instead of cramming the night before a bunch of tests. 

When it comes down to it, we have a somewhat simple problem and an incredibly simple solution. As students, we have to recognize the work that our teachers are doing to finish units for several grades in a short amount of time and communicate our needs with them. Teachers should be listening to the needs of their students and communicating as well. If we can end the disconnect, then perhaps we can all alleviate the final-like stress so present in those five days before break.