Moving On From Midterms

October 6th and 7th were possibly some of the least anticipated days of quarter 1 as it were the days of midterms. Known as the major assessment at the end of a quarter, midterms are an indicator as to what students know and have learned throughout the course of their first and third quarter (first quarter being within the first semester and third quarter if it is within the second semester).

As Spanish teacher Karina Jacquez explained, “… [It’s] kind of a way for them to see what they need help with or to improve halfway through the semester. It’s for teachers to monitor your progress.”

While teachers use midterms as a tool of reflection, more often than not, students stress over studying and the finalization of their grades. After pressing submit on their assessments, many students say they anxiously wait for their results, waiting for their scores to see if their study efforts had paid off.

 Although a majority of the upperclassmen have experienced midterms at West Park High School, the freshman have just gotten a taste of what high school testing is like after their first ever midterms.

“At first, I was stressed because I wasn’t sure what to expect, but now that I’ve been through most of [the math midterms,] I think I’ll be fine,” said freshman Ashley Parham as she was about to undertake her third math midterm of functions. 

Parham expresses how highschool midterms weren’t what she expected them to be like.

“Honestly, I expected major testing in general to be terrifying: a lot of crying, no sleep, and too much stress,” Parham laughed as she spoke about her initial impressions. “But maybe that’s for other people, I mean, I am a freshman in IM1.” She further explained how she was overwhelmed in the beginning just after hearing all of the midterms she would have to do but after the week of midterms had passed, Parham feels like she survived midterms due to the fact that they weren’t as bad as she expected. To her, math midterms were just a review of all the concepts that she’s already gone over and it was helpful that she was able to reflect back onto her study guide that she had created based on each unit.

Although Parham didn’t think that her midterms were stressful, her math teacher thought otherwise. Parham’s IM1 teacher, Jennifer Pajcin, stated that one of the hardest things through the course of midterms was not being able to help her students during their testing.

“As a teacher, it’s difficult to watch one of your students sit there and struggling on a test and you can’t offer them much help,” Pajcin stated. She then explained how she wasn’t allowed to assist her students in any way other than clarifying a question. “It wasn’t only not being able to help but gradings stressful as well.” 

In the department of math, a majority of the math classes consist of four midterms, each for the unit that they learned that quarter which causes their midterm week to be extended a week earlier than every other department’s midterms. For IM1 in particular, the midterms revolved around the units of patterns, functions mid-season, end of functions, and lastly solving. 

Considering that math teachers have to grade four midterms for every student within each class period they have, the workload can be described as stressful. Pajcin stated how she works alongside her IM1 co-teacher Joliana Alvarado Gomez in order to grade all of their students’ assessments and to return them as soon as possible so the students wouldn’t have to nervously wait for their results.

Other freshmen such as Parham’s friend, Anya Machneva also felt like her midterms were easier than she had anticipated. The only one that she considered a struggle was one of her math tests as well: the end of functions midterm. 

Whereas many students taking the integrated math courses didn’t like having to start midterms a week earlier than everyone else, Machneva wasn’t phased by it. “I like how the tests are spaced out instead of being all at once. It definitely takes the weight off of students’ shoulders,” she stated. While admiring the fact that it gave her and her fellow classmates time to prepare, Machneva also appreciated the fact that with the separate tests, students are able to take things one step at a time rather than combining everything they’ve learned into a single exam.

After her testing had ended, Machneva recalled her experiences through the week of midterms and thought proudly.

“I feel confident. I tried my best and that’s all that matters.”

Similar to Parham, Machneva found success through taking her first high school midterm and is glad to consider it an experience where she can learn from her mistakes and grow for future exams.

Although Parham and Manchneva saw their midterms to be easier than originally believed, some students found midterms to be more of a challenge than they had hoped for.

Freshman Azaria Lusk found herself being overwhelmed by the amount of projects and assessments that she needed to do. “I had to finish two portfolios in one day and it was due on Wednesday the 5th instead of the 7th like they were supposed to.” Lusk felt like there was a limited possibility that she was able to finish her assignments on time and claimed that she struggled to stay afloat.

Lusk struggled the most on her health midterm because her test consisted of vocabulary and information that they had just learned the day before which made it harder to remember on top of everything else. Lusk made her frustration abundant when she explained how she wanted to prioritize studying for health but having to work to submit both her English and Journalism portfolios instead, making her feel behind and unprepared when the time for her health midterm actually came.

Although Lusk wasn’t the only student that struggled through the course of midterms, there were multiple upperclassmen that felt like midterms were a challenge well. With the continuation of concepts advancing in difficulty and the options for AP classes, many juniors and seniors found themselves stressing more than they did last year.

Junior Kendal Holck believed that her data science portfolio was a relatively simple concept consisting of a portfolio reflecting on the three units that her class has been covering but it was the grading system that she considered a hassle.

“We are being held to an out-of-nowhere high standard, as he is putting us against each other as a part of our grade,” Holck explained.

With the concept of the data science portfolio, a person would create their project and then when it came to the midterm day, they would be randomly paired with another student and grade their partner’s project to see if they have all the necessary requirements. 

“This would happen three times before [Mr. Parr] grades it himself. Then the scores would be averaged and that’s your grade. You can also get five points if your project was better than your partners.” Holck expressed. Throughout the duration of midterms, there was a concern that arose with the chance that Holck had all the necessary components but her grade was still being lower because her partner thinks that they had a better project than hers which made her nervous.

Although Holck found most of her work to be manageable, it took a heavy toll on her both mentally and physically due to the pressure that was involved. By the end of midterms, she found the results of her assessments to be rewarding as she was given high marks on all of her projects.

“I feel pretty good now that it’s over. I have all A’s so I can’t be too sad,” Holck recalled when reflecting back on midterms week.

Senior Angel Dacayanan found herself being more overwhelmed than she had expected due to the fact that she felt like she was being rushed. Since West Park’s homecoming was just a few days prior from the beginning of midterms, Dacayanan said that there felt like no time to study for all of her classes, two of which were AP classes. Explaining how she wanted to attend her final highschool homecoming, she wished that the school had given a week after the dance for students to prepare or have it afterwards so the pressure for studying wasn’t so high. 

Although Dacayanan was able to make her way through the challenges of testing, her negative opinion of midterms was evident.

“Personally, I don’t like midterms just because it makes it harder for us students,” Dacayanan began as she remembered all the anxiety that her and her peers faced throughout the week. “It’s way too early in the school year and brings so much unwanted anxiety that everyone will have to deal with for a whole week.”

Even though testing had lasted a short duration, students worked tirelessly over reviewing concepts for exams or making sure that they had every element included within their projects/portfolios.

Regardless of whether the student felt like they did fail or succeeded, both students and staff expressed their relief and excitement that midterms are over.

“Remember that a test or a project is not the end of the world. Every obstacle or challenge that life throws at us is a great opportunity to learn,” Jacquez encouraged. “Remember to take care of yourself, to take a deep breath, and ask questions and ask for support if you need it.”