The storm before the calm

For the first time in several years, we will finally come back from the long Winter Break to new classes. No more hardcore, last-minute cramming for a final after a two week hiatus.  No more review PAKs and other material to blow-off during the break.  Both students and teachers welcome a clean slate when they return.

This is not to say that change is not without problems. This year, the first semester ends right before winter break. That means the first two terms are only eight weeks, the third term is nine weeks and the last term is a whopping 12 weeks. Students no longer have extra time to work on assignments. Teachers have to change their entire curriculum to fit the new, jam-packed schedule. Students also have to adjust and manage their time better because due dates are extremely tight.

But although time is limited in this semester, it’s worth it.  Since the semester ends right before winter break, students won’t have to worry about the upcoming finals.

By definition then, the second semester will be much longer— arguably a good thing. Students have more time to study for AP testing, second semester class work and other extracurricular activities, since most clubs events will have started snowballing in the second semester. Juniors have more time to take the SAT/ACT without worry of PAK deadlines overlapping. Freshmen and sophomores have more time to prepare for their EOCs… at least, the second semester ones. It also allows for school events that occur primarily in the second semester and can take away class time such as senior auction, senior parade day and class wars.

Despite these benefits, the simple fact of the matter does not change: the first semester was so much more difficult. Students and teachers had a hectic schedule. Teachers had to adjust their due dates in order to fit the required curriculum in a shorter amount of time. Entire PAKS and tests had to be completely taken out of the curriculum. Books for English that normally would have been given two weeks to read has been removed entirely or given half the amount of time. Math scrambled to teach everything students need to know in 20 days fewer than a normal semester.

But think about it like this: a harder first semester is the storm before calm; rest assured that the pressure is not as bad in a second semester. Because everything is so tight in the first semester, students must adapt and learn how to manage their time or cram all their work. They learn to be more efficient and create good, diligent work habits. Working under pressure can help students with future crunch times. Plus, most students can’t study over the break because of holiday trips out-of-town or don’t study simply because they don’t want to. But then again… who actually wants to study (or grade) during break?

There’s no doubt that the first semester is as hard as it will get in a while. Some may not notice it, which is a good sign that they are good during crunch time, but others definitely feel the pressure, whether it’s having to redo PAKs that have been around for years or meeting a deadline shortly after another.It can seem unfair that the second semester classes benefit at the cost of the first semester classes, but that is not to say it is not worth it in the end.

The value of coming back from a two-week break to new classes instead of finals should not be underestimated: the break is infinitely more enjoyable when homework and studying are out of the picture.