Distance Learning Finals

Student’s explain their experiences with finals during distance learning.

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Fiona Gmeiner and Annabelle Stuelpe

Finals week, one of the most stressful periods of the school year for students, is imminent for students on campus, with finals beginning on Wednesday. However, because of distance learning, the construct of finals are altered, with students now completing tests and projects from their own home. 

Junior Antonio Bernardini is stressed for his upcoming finals in Honors French, Honors Math, Chemistry, APUSH, and Leadership. Bernardini’s plan for studying consists of study guides his teacher has assigned and past material, yet he still feels under prepared for the upcoming exams.

“I feel [my teachers] have prepared me for the final the best they could, but I do not feel as prepared as I would in a normal year… some of my classes were unable to cover as much material as we normally would,” said Bernardini.

Along with distance learning not providing the same amount of instructional time as in-person learning, Bernardini has encountered issues with WiFi and connection now that school is all online. Issues with internet connection can be extremely frustrating, Bernadini explains how difficult the shift to relying on a computer for school actually is.

“I could have my entire school day be unproductive due to bad internet on either end, and I have had instances where I could not understand or see what my teachers were talking about for a majority of the class,” Bernardini said.

With finals week, students who regularly experience complications with WiFi have an added level of stress with the uncertainty of whether their internet will last them through their finals. Zoom meetings are difficult for students who thrive in a classroom setting. 

This is applicable to Bernardini, “I am glad the semester is almost over, because distance learning is very draining for me and it will be nice to have a break from zoom meetings… [distance learning] has added to my stress as I learn better in person while doing hands-on activities,” said Bernardini. 

Despite his aversion to Zoom meetings, Bernardini is not concerned about his grades, “I am comfortable with my grades at the moment, as I have a number of weighted classes that help reassure me and because of that I can do better in my classes as I am less stressed,” said Bernardini.

Senior Kathleen Gmeiner provided a similar perspective on finals during distance learning. She is taking six classes this semester including three AP courses, yet she only has one final. She assumes this is the case because her teachers understand how difficult online learning is. 

I feel like many teachers understand the struggle that we’re going through–and that they are also experiencing–and have, in turn, decided to adapt finals to lower our stress levels because they know how high they already are,” said Gmeiner.

She explained that distance learning has added more stress to an already difficult time because it is significantly harder to learn material over Zoom. While there are resources for extra help, she says it can feel awkward to ask questions and it is difficult to stay focused while doing school, homework, and sports all at home. As a senior during the coronavirus, Gmeiner is missing out on many of the activities that would normally be reserved for the last year of high school. When asked if she would rather be in the current predicament with only one final or to have gone to school all semester and had six finals, she immediately asserted that she would rather go to school, both to have these experiences and for educational reasons.

“I know everyone who doesn’t have many finals this semester would be more stressed if we had additional tests, but we would also have better opportunities to understand the material than we do now. I’m constantly questioning whether or not I understand what I’m being taught” said Gmeiner.

Regarding mental health during finals and COVID-19, she explained that her English teacher, Ms. Haflich, has been particularly aware of mental health issues. She regularly talks about mental health and gives students a daily check-in to fill out so she knows how they’re doing, something Gmeiner says everyone appreciates.

Distance learning seems like something that will be envied by future generations, but in reality, many students are struggling in this situation more than they ever have before. As students cram for finals in this last week of the semester, everyone’s eyes will be on next week and winter break. Gmeiner noted that she thinks everyone is ready for the time off, adding that break is well deserved by everyone.