We just finished our final exams this week and are ready for the summer. But, of course, a bit of finals week reflection is in order each year, and this year is no exception.
I use these tests as a way to ensure that students can’t forget the material in the class, to have the kids ponder the courses’ big ideas, and to give the students a final opportunity to show me they learned the material. For me, this reinforces the importance of the class and its application to my students. Plus, I always have a reflective question for the students which allows them to assess their own efforts and to set goals for the summer and the next school year.
My students did a great job on their finals this year; they had some of the highest final exam grades I’ve seen in some time, and almost everyone increased their grades based on the final. This felt good to see.
However, these successes were not without a few minor obstacles. During the last final exam time the students worked well despite a Jack Black film playing to their right and a Romeo and Juliet film to their left. Sometimes I momentarily wonder why I work so hard when those around me do not, but I know the students deserve to be held to high standards.
Over the last few years the administrators have started to voice whether or not we should have finals. They have seen some teachers playing kickball outside or showing movies or having yearbook signing parties during the final exam time. Instead of enforcing that a learning activity occur, the conversation has shifted to one of eliminating finals.
For those of us who actually push our kids to the end, this feels insulting. Why would the response to teachers not using all of their class time for learning result in a seeming endorsement of that notion?
Now, I have changed my finals structure because of parental and administrative pressures. I have moved more towards an objective final exam, so parents and administrators can’t pressure me to fudge a more subjective score. I used to have all essay finals, but I now have the final structured as 40% vocabulary words/literary terms, 40% literature review, and 20% essay.
Still, I don’t think that the few who refuse to give finals or do not have a structured activity should essentially set the policy for everyone else. I think this conversation really leads me to two questions:
- Why don’t the administrators enforce the policies set for the faculty?
- What is the purpose of finals?