Exams started today, and there is always a different feeling during finals week. Part of it is due to the change in schedule. Everyone, both teachers and students, have been operating under one schedule for a few months, and, suddenly, it has been altered. If a class met at 8, then the final is at 9. If a class met at 12:30, then the final is a 1. Sometimes, I think it would be better if the schedule stayed the same. People get into a routine, and a change in that routine can affect how they function.
I notice the schedule change as soon as I pull into the parking lot. When I arrive in the morning, it is empty. When I return from lunch, it is full. During exam week, it is half full. It may sound crazy, but a lot can be learned about a school by studying the cars in the parking lot.
Maybe, I will write a post about that one day.
The different feel can also be felt while walking into the building. During finals week, Student Life provides donuts for the students. It doesn’t take long for the table in the lobby to be filled with empty boxes rather than boxes full of donuts.
However, the schedule, parking lot and donuts are only part of the change on campus. The real change can’t be found in a physical form. It is in the air. It is in the mannerisms of the students and the teachers. It is a sense of finality and pressure.
Throughout the semester, students know that there is always another chance. Make a bad grade on the first test, and it can be made up on other tests. Mess up on an assignment, and other assignment grades can pull it up. Bomb the exam, and there is nothing else that can be done.
It’s like a field goal at the end of a football game. Make the winning kick, and everyone talks about how clutch it was. Miss the winning kick, and everyone talks about choking. No one notices all of the plays that brought the game to that point.
When people see that final test grade, they automatically think that the exam was make or break. In reality, all of those other grades contributed to the final tally. Sometimes, I think if people realized that, then the pressure of the final would not be as powerful.
The students are not the only ones who feel the pressure. Teachers have to grade the tests; turn in completed grades to the registrar; and, prepare for the emails from students wondering why they got a C when they knew that they were going to get an A.
Today, I gave one test and spent a long while getting it graded. I haven’t turned the grades in to the registrar because a student was confused by the schedule and missed the test. He will take it tomorrow while I am giving another exam. When he takes the exam, I will turn the grades in for that class. Once those are sent, I will start grading the exam that I am giving tomorrow. When I am finished, I will check my email inbox to explain to people why they made the grade that they did.
During this explanation, I will help them understand that I did not give them that grade. Simply, I calculated the grades that they earned.
Yes, final exams week is different.