Students reflect on virtual final exams, continued ‘difficulties’ of remote learning

Senior+Ava+Salomon+reviews+her+final+project+for+French.+Upper+school+students+took+final+exams+as+a+culmination+to+the+first+semester+before+winter+break.

Photo credit: Lola Lamberg

Senior Ava Salomon reviews her final project for French. Upper school students took final exams as a culmination to the first semester before winter break.

By London Sinclair, Podcast Editor

Three weeks ago, the fall semester came to a close as students and faculty prepared for final exams. Unlike past years, however, students did not gather in the library or classrooms to take their cumulative as finals were conducted remotely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Upper school students take final exams in select Archer courses to assess their knowledge of specific subjects. While some classes conducted the traditional final exam, consisting of a written assessment and/sor a multiple choice section, other assessments included essays, out-of-class projects, fluency tests in language courses and more. This year, finals led into a two-week winter break from Dec. 21 to Jan. 5.

Junior Ruby Williams commented on the “extraordinary” challenges that came along with taking exams at home.

“It was way more exhausting,” Williams said. “Managing my time at home was way harder compared to being at school, in a more motivating environment. I ended up more exhausted on the last day than I have ever been”

Despite the unusual circumstances, Archer maintained the normal finals schedule with Monday and Tuesday acting as regular school days with periods dedicated to studying and reviewing. These two school days allowed students to prepare for the upcoming exams administered on Wednesday through Friday.

“I’m happy we had those two days, and I really maximized my time on Monday and Tuesday, studying for my classes and getting as much done before testing days so I wouldn’t be as stressed day-of,” freshman Ijeoma Nwafor said.

Williams and Nwafor also reflected on the strengths and areas of growth from their classes and individual experiences.

“I feel like online, with remote work, etc., the teachers are doing their best they can with what they have. Although I feel like when assigning work, they could have taken into consideration our other classes,”  Nwafor said. “It’s difficult — these assessments are stressful, and they carry a lot of weight, so I wish there was more of a concern for the workload.”

Easing the stress of mid-year assessments, Williams’ biology course conducted a less time-sensitive final, where classmates had the opportunity to disregard the pressure of time and focus on the test itself.

“I had one teacher that designed the test to be 45 minutes, but we had the whole two hours to work. There was no regular or extended time; you could take as much time as you needed within the period,” Williams said. “This gave me more time to go over my answers and also eased some of the stress that I was holding onto.”

Williams experienced another strength in her Chinese class, where the more end-of-semester assessment was excused for a cumulative project.

“I also enjoy having a final project instead of a test,” Williams said. “In my Chinese class, we got to pick how we wanted to demonstrate our learning, and I think that process fosters engagement and metacognition, which is much more effective.”

Congratulating students and faculty on making it through finals week and the first semester, Head of School Elizabeth English sent a schoolwide email of “holiday cheer.”

“Happy Holidays, everyone. We did it. We made it through a full semester of remote school,” English wrote. “I’m so proud of each and every Archer student who, despite all the challenges of longing for in-person connection with teachers and peers, leaned in and did their very best to listen, learn, create, and support one another through it all.”

Customarily, Archer commences winter break by gathering the faculty and staff on the front lawn to wave goodbye to the student body as the buses depart. While this wasn’t a possibility this year, the faculty recorded a virtual wave as an ode to the usual send-off.

“It’s true, COVID has got us hunkered down in our houses again, but Archer girls are watching the women they will one day become, working to slay this virus in service of all humankind,” English wrote. “When all is said and done, the pandemic has given Archer girls a lesson in what one does when there is an enemy among us: you organize, you rally, you persevere, you kick ass.”

Correction Statement (Jan. 10, 2021, 7:14 p.m.): A previous version of this article stated that middle school students take final exams. The article has been revised to reflect that upper school students take final exams and the middle school does not unless in unusual circumstances.