Henry Brown '23
You know the feeling. It’s approaching the end of the first quarter, your MySTA calendar is filling up, and your gut is telling you that this weekend won’t be fun. The all-too-common death week is at your doorstep, and there’s nothing you can do but suffer. It’s a painful tradition that all STA students have had to endure—mostly by chance and not out of teachers’ spite—and you can only slog through the five major assessments due next week.
Over the years, the school has enacted policies to mitigate the burden of such strenuous stretches of the school year. Be it the seven-day rotating schedule or limiting the number of tests per day, several efforts have curbed the inevitable brunt of any quarter-based school calendar. Students, however, are still outraged. They complain to their teachers, they curse the administration under their breath. Even I, writing an article in its favor, cannot escape the wrath of a death week.
But before we go about overhauling the scheduling system and mandating an even spread of assessments across the quarter, let’s take a look at why such a crunch week can prove beneficial in the grand scope of our high school careers.
First, death weeks create stress. What a revelation, Henry! Our grades in a majority of our classes are on the line, and if we fumble once, the week can spiral out of our control. However, to an extent, this stress can be proactive. The phrase may be cliché, but diamonds are made under pressure. Healthy stress can reduce the urge to procrastinate, and a workaholic mentality fosters more focused and effective studying. In essence, the death week strikes the school-life balance for you rather than the other way around. If you have four tests next week, given how much is on the line grade wise, you’re less inclined to abandon your weekend study time than if you have one.
From an endurance perspective, death weeks can help prevent burnout. Of course, there is no scientific study analyzing STA students’ levels of motivation based on how tests are spaced in a quarter. But from my own experience, quarters with a moderate amount of work for all eight weeks (averaging one or two assessments per week) are much more of a mental slog than ones that cram a majority of these assessments into one or two death weeks. Why? Because having a looming quiz or test every four days is much more tiring over the course of a school year than having a death week every four weeks. The amount of work I do in a quarter may be equivalent, but weeks with minimal work enable the rejuvenation that a quarter with evenly spread assessments cannot provide.
And to top it off, few feelings are as rewarding as collapsing in your bed on the Friday after a death week. Death weeks are arguably some of the most rigorous, most stressful moments we will ever encounter, and they no doubt prepare us to work harder than we have ever worked before. Apart from the grades, the payoff is a weekend with no tests to worry about, no quizzes to fret over, and just a few homework assignments to save for Sunday night. If the school were to mandate staggered assessments to lighten the load (e.g. two tests per week total), our tradition of academic rigor would be nullified, and these weekends would become a rarity.
Death weeks are by no means perfect. An ideal death week would mean one or two assessments per day, leaving an evening between each test to study. Or perhaps it’s preferable to spread out those tests over two weeks, maintaining the assessment density but leaving enough time to study and get enough sleep. But regardless of the death week’s final form, it is a vital part of our school’s function. It boosts motivation, it prevents burnout, and it’s the manifestation of the academic rigor we seek in this institution. Death weeks are insufferable, but they are one of the most pivotal aspects of our education. So let’s keep them.