Breaking Free from Dead Week

Monta Vista is about to hit dead week – the last week before finals and one of the most dreadest weeks of the year full of cramming, studying and stress. Surrounded by people frantically scribbling notes, reading through textbooks and taking practice tests, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the pressure of dead week. I’ve even begun to see the signs: the tired looks on my friends’ faces, the worried and strained expressions of people as they rush to the library. But it’s not simply a few people; the stress somehow manages condense into an environment and surround the school and the students inside, affecting each and every one of us.

Whether it be a last chance to bring their grades up a letter grade or a struggle to maintain their borderline grade, dead week is crucial for so many students. However, what I really hate is the studymindset and stigma behind this notion. So many students regard dead week as their last opportunity, their last hope, that they pile so much pressure on themselves and almost break in the process. They view finals as a hit-or-miss opportunity, a do-or-die for that one letter grade, and therefore force themselves to cram and memorize a year’s worth of information, thinking, “I have to get this score on my final; I have to do well, or else…”

But what happens if you don’t succeed, if you hit that “or else…;” if you “miss?” Is a lower letter grade truly the end of the world, the pitfall at the edge of the cliff? Will all the colleges instantly shun you, will you friends and family stop caring about you, will the world stop revolving? Sometimes students forget that that one test grade or class grade does not mean the end of the world. One failure does not define you, and grades certainly do not (hopefully).

And they also lose the essence of learning. In their haste to cram material, students forget to understand and truly process the information and thus, they forget to learn. They value the end result so much that they forget to stop to enjoy the process. In several years, one letter grade might not matter, but the information you have learned will stick with you forever. But what do students value? What’s right in front of them, that shining letter that they perceive as the definition of their hard work, their intelligence.

I’m currently in the struggle of defeating my own mindset, as I still subconsciously continue to stick to the “A or failure” mindset. And I know it’s almost impossible to defeat the ominous cloud hanging over the school, striking stress and fear in the students’ hearts. But I move forward with stubbornness, with obstinance, with a refusal to give up. Perhaps I may never be able to see beyond this narrow mindset, never be able to shake free of these chains that shackle us to our own failure. But perhaps I will, and taking that first step has made all the difference.

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