by Robin Bosworth
Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students at The Leffell School did not take finals in any class, which has left many students wondering about the experience of taking finals. In addition, not all teachers typically create finals the same way; some prefer more traditional tests, while others enjoy giving creative projects.
Usually, in the Engineering and Entrepreneurship (E²) course, sophomores and juniors work on year-long projects throughout the year and for their final. However, this year, those projects were unable to happen, so Director of Engineering and Design Dr. Daniel Aviv had to figure out a new way to give a final for those courses.
“In a normal year, finals would be the one project and it would be a percentage of what they do,” Aviv said. “I think the final will be more like a conventional school final with aspects of all the things [students] learned over the course of the year.”
In the ninth-grade E² course, the year was structured more closely to how it normally is, including a seven-week-long final project. This project includes elements of the different skills taught during the year so the exam is cumulative.
“In some ways, the final that ninth graders have is a taste of a regular final, in that there is going to be an Arduino quiz component, which is something they learned in the first semester,” Aviv said. “I’m doing that because I want them to feel like they should still know what they learned, but in this course, I also want them to have skills for next year.”
However, not all teachers find it beneficial to give projects that take a substantial amount of time during school. In certain classes, teachers prefer to give conventional two-hour long finals that are cumulative of the material learned either all year or in the second semester.
“In math, I prefer to give a formal assessment; a test,” math department chair Miriam Helfgott said. “I find that I know a lot more about what a student knows if I do that kind of test. I think that helps me to know how much a student has gotten out of course. It allows me to let the teacher know when that student moves to the next class what skill sets they really have.”
Nonetheless, other teachers believe that assigning a more creative project exemplifies the ability to apply all of the concepts learned in the class. Additionally, the level of stress students feel toward finals is reduced when they have to complete a project as opposed to a more formal exam.
“I like projects because it’s not something that you study for, but you’re using the skills that you’ve learned,” Spanish teacher Michael Bozzuto said. “I try to do creative projects and I try to do them before the rest, so they’re done before students have finals.”
Since most students feel nervous to some degree surrounding finals, teachers try to be mindful and eliminate as much stress as possible.
“I think a lot of students will feel very anxious, but I think they need to trust their teachers, and they need to ask questions,” Bozzuto said. “I think students will naturally feel anxious but it will be okay.”
Given that both freshmen and sophomores have not taken high school finals before, teachers attempt to be as helpful as they can by giving out review material and answering questions from students.
“Ninth graders are often very concerned about finals,” Aviv said. “I see that every year because it’s unknown. It’s the first time most students have a big test. I think it is always scary, especially because all of the students missed out on the final experience last year.
“I would say, I think 10th and 11th graders have had intense tests, so I don’t think it will be too challenging for them.”
Although the weeks leading up to finals can be extremely stressful for many students, it is important to study hard and remain positive. Teachers are aware of the anxiety some students feel, and they try to help as best they can.
“We try to keep everyone upbeat and remind students that yes, it is a test that is important, but to just do the best they can,” Helfgott said. “When people do the best they can, they walk away with a good feeling.”