Major Assignments Week—Major Inflexibility

Editorial  /  by James Wellemeyer '18  /  February 09, 2018

During last term’s Major Assignments Week, one of my teachers offered to push back our scheduled test by one day. Despite my class’s overwhelming support for the delay, the proposal was never implemented. Major Assignments Week has strict rules, and pushing back the test would have forced some students to deal with three Major Assignments on one day during an already stressful week. Even those students, however, favored the deferral of this test. While we should acknowledge that the policies of Major Assignments Week exist to help students, particularly students who still struggle to manage their time well, and are largely successful in doing so, an increase in flexibility of the week could help both students and teachers.

Major Assignments Week prevents students from having to write more than two papers, having to take more than two tests, or a combination of both on the same day during one of the most stressful weeks of the term. In general, this setup benefits all of us: It is predictable and allows us to plan ahead, while decreasing the chance that we will feel overwhelmed on any particularly day of the week. The current structure, moreover, is particularly beneficial for underformers, many of whom haven’t learned to study as far in advance for their assignments as their older peers. For these students, the structure Major Assignments Week gives is important, as it permits them to survive the often-dreaded week without a rapid change in their study habits.

But what about us older students, IV and V Formers? IV and V Formers typically manage their time more effectively than their younger classmates—or they should after previous years at Lawrenceville. With our teachers’ consent, we should therefore have more freedom to alter the structure of our Major Assignments Weeks. If every student in a certain class wants a test to be delayed during Major Assignments Week and the teacher agrees, that test should be allowed to be pushed back. And if that reschedule puts the students in that class in a position in which they have three Major Assignments on the same day, they can deal with that consequence, one for which they should be prepared. After all, they themselves advocated that the assignment be pushed back.

I do not favor the democratization of testing schedules. If that concept were implemented, we might end up with no tests at all, and, as a consequence, little learning. But increased flexibility in Major Assignments Week in IV and V Form classes could help both the students in those classes and their teachers. If all students in a class feel unprepared for Thursday’s test and the teacher is receptive, pushing the test to Friday should not cause an issue, particularly among students who will be heading off to college soon, where creating one’s own study schedule is one of the most essential aspects of doing well in increasingly challenging courses.