Finals on Pause? Teachers and students deal with new end of semester format

Finals on Pause?  Teachers and students deal with new end of semester format

There is a subtle hush over the school hallways.

Students are quiet as they wish each other luck before entering their testing classroom with only a pencil and eraser. During the breaks, students gather together, munching on pretzels and apple slices, sharing how the different testing went. Outside, the snow falls softly, taunting the students about much needed Christmas break peeking around the corner.

Teachers stride through the halls, directing students to their correct testing rooms, and scolding those who mention answers to each other. They make their way to the correct classrooms to proctor the exams, and watch over students with the eye of a hawk.Throughout the school, there is the excitement that only comes with the promise of Christmas break.

As students finish their last finals, friends flood out of the building, discussing plans and the thrill of Christmas and break that only  comes after  finals drain the academic energy of students and teachers alike.

However, this is 2020 and finals are yet another thing in 2020 looking entirely different from last year.

Students’ alarm clocks go off a couple minutes before the Zoom class, and students roll over to grab their laptop, while half sleeping through class. Teachers wearily sit down to another day of online school. They open their email to find emails from students asking for their 10th extension and emails from parents begging them to update their child’s grade. Emails from administration outlining the expectations for online school for the umpteenth time.

Teachers tell the students to turn on their cameras, but the dark, muted screens remain glowing on the computer screen. Eventually teachers give up and begin the lesson, hoping students are paying attention.
Many teachers and students are facing this type of situation this year, and it leads to an even more difficult question: give students finals or simply skip them?

My primary concern was that students’ grades would accurately reflect their learning – what they know and can do related to the class”

— Mrs. Fitch

Cotter principal Mary Eileen Fitch says teachers  were allowed to decide if they wanted to give a final exam. Due to the strange school semester due to Covid, teachers must make a decision best for their students. After a long semester online, finals are a mixed bag this year.

“My primary concern was that students’ grades would accurately reflect their learning – what they know and can do related to the class. I was concerned that some cumulative finals might negatively affect the students’ grade in an unfair way, but ultimately, the decision was up to the teachers,” Mrs. Fitch said.

From waking up late and and attending Zoom in bed to groggily doing homework assignments, students may be struggling to learn this year.

Finals usually hang over students, causing stress, anxiety and worry. This year will  be slightly diffrent. Teachers are choosing to do different things depending on the class

What are teachers doing instead of finals this year? Mrs. Hohnstadt and Mr. Roeckers have taught math for years and usually given finals. However, neither of them are giving their students a math final this year. What is the reason for this seemingly kind gesture?

“In all of my classes I am doing more quizzes and feel that is making up for the lack of a final exam,” Mr. Roeckers said.

Many teachers are choosing to assign a final project or smaller test project or smaller test instead of a traditional final.

” Students had a final unit test for 9th grade and then 10th has a reflection project rather than a written test,” Ms. Shriver, English teacher, said.

However, some teachers are choosing to still do finals for some classes such as Mr. Howard and Mrs. Stevenson.

“I think learning is a process and can be reinforced over time, and the connections created as more course material is added over time make for deeper understanding of the content. A semester exam connects all of those dots,” Mr. Howard said.

When giving an online test, cheating becomes almost inevitable. With a simple click of a tab, questions can be googled. With a quick text to a friend or group chat, answers can be shared or passed around, especially in a small high school such as Cotter. Textbooks and notes are a reach away. Cheating during online school has become incredibly easy and happens daily. Teachers say that they are aware of these temptations and are coming up with ways that they can prevent this to the best of their abilities.

“I discourage cheating by making sure the questions are critical thinking questions, which cannot be found on the internet,” Mrs. Stevenson said.

Teachers and students are experiencing a slightly different end of semester review, but are learning to adapt to one more new obstacle in 2020.