The Paly Voice

Dead Week is alive

Grant Raffel, Author

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Editor’s Note: The opinions and attitudes expressed by the authors are those of the authors and not necessarily of the publication’s editorial board.

It’s the last school day before finals. As students head to their classes, instead of worrying about finals the next week, they are worried about the project due later that day.

It’s the calm before the storm… or at least it should be.

What is Dead Week? Two days of review? We would like to believe Dead Week encompasses the entire week before finals — a time when students can dust off their textbooks and notebooks in an attempt to reinvigorate their minds and prepare for the onslaught of testing ahead. However, some teachers choose to ignore the fact that finals are just around the corner and have continued teaching new information and mandating projects.

The student planner says that “major projects should not be due during finals” and yet it appears some teachers are failing to abide by this rule. Year after year, we have seen teachers consistently assign large projects due either on the final day or during Dead Week (note: “Dead Week” is not an official term. Some prefer to call it “Review Days”).  Syntactically, teachers can avoid violating the student code by making due dates just before finals, yet that detracts from the amount of studying students should be completing during Dead Week. Simply put, it’s just bad planning to make a project due right before finals.

We understand the teachers’ dilemma; they want to evaluate students’ presentation skills on the material learned from the entire semester in one project, but cannot make the projects due right after winter break so they push the date back to Dead Week. So what’s the solution? Although we are not qualified to teach or create a curriculum, we can advise teachers considering assigning such a project to perhaps schedule for its completion before Winter Break. Sure, the students may complain because they are eager to relax, but in the long run, getting the work done early more than justifies a delayed break and less study time. This might change for the better next year when pre-break finals will make semester projects due before the break.

In addition to major projects, the student planner says “there should be at least two days set aside for review for finals, and no major tests at least two days before finals begin.” We believe that two days is a minimum, and should not be used for introducing new material. Yet many teachers still choose to cram more information during class time while students should be going over what they already have learned. Considering the fact that many of us may have forgotten much of the information over break, it seems logical that teachers should help students review the curriculum for them to succeed. However, this is far from the usual case. Despite only having one block day dedicated to review, some teachers don’t even meet this requirement! While we would like more review, the least teachers can do is schedule one day of review for 85 school days of work.

New material, exciting as it is, should be limited to being taught before dead week. Students who are trying to study past material may experience proactive interference in learning new material and retroactive interference in remembering material already learned (thanks AP Psych!). Psychology aside, students who are stressed about finals are most likely occupied with old material, and therefore may not even pay close attention to the new information given and will struggle even further as a result.

Overall, we believe that by leaving many students without a chance to settle down and reinforce the knowledge that they have gained over the semester, teachers are hindering, not helping, students’ potential to succeed on the final exams. In both the immediate and distant future, we hope teachers will consider using not only the mandated Review Days but at least one other class period to help students review for finals.  We also urge them to take a hard look at their semester plans and make any projects due the week before Dead Week. With a couple minor adjustments to curriculum scheduling, the time before finals can be made to be much more beneficial.

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