“We’re all in this together” may sound a bit cliché after the past year of COVID precautions and cancellations. But, as PA upper schoolers near the halfway mark of semester two, the same sentiment carries them through a particularly busy week of assessments and projects. The mounting work is weighing on teachers as well, but a much-needed break has arrived for students and teachers alike.

Mary Smyth ’24 and Gracie Griep ’24 attentively listen to peer Tierney Dennison ’24 as she inquires about homework. Many students use the Atrium to study before and after school.

“Everyone’s getting ready [for Spring Break], teachers and students,” commented Upper School history teacher Mr. Edward Hester.

Eleanor Young ‘22 is very much looking forward to the respite from her rigorous course schedule.  She reflected, “Just knowing that I will be able to sleep as much as I want for the next two weeks is really getting me through it all.”

The two week break has certainly been a light at the end of the tunnel, but in the meantime, Young has been working hard to leave her classes in good standing before disconnecting for awhile.

Dr. John Lewin, Upper School Chemistry instructor, busy getting some grading done before the upcoming break.

 “I would say my work ethic is what has allowed me to stay successful juggling everything,” she remarked.

“If you don’t have a good work ethic, you won’t enjoy school or be good at it,” affirmed Mrs. Amelia Hejna, Upper School Literature Teacher and Upper School Learning Specialist.

Enjoying academic success, of course, is often the result of combined effort from students and instructors.  Upper School History and Theology Instructor Dr. Kevin Keiser tries to help his students stay ahead of the stress by providing, in a word, “Clarity! Every Monday, [I try to] be clear about what’s going to happen during the week and what they need to do.”

Keiser reflected on this particularly busy time. He recalls that the last few days before break used to be packed with assessments.  “Now teachers try to get ahead and [schedule assessments] the week before,” he commented. The result: both weeks being hectic.  

Anika Austvold ’24 working diligently to complete homework before the two week break.

During the two weeks before Spring Break, Hejna knows students get a huge task load, which is why she gives her students more work time in class than she normally would.

When many upper schoolers are having a hard time prioritizing, or staying peaceful during busy weeks, they visit Student Services. As the assessment number increases, so does the number of students requesting help in prioritizing and study skills. Hejna is there to help in any way she can, from advising the best strategy to take on homework to just letting students talk it out.

When students come to Hejna, stressed about tackling their assignments, she recommends that they “pray and prioritize what’s most important.”

When it comes to time management, Hejna suggests, “Schedule breaks and know your limits.” Furthermore, she has noticed that writing things down and having a routine is one of the most effective tools for students.

Although these weeks are demanding, students understand that teachers have to test the material before the break. “No teacher wants their students to be midway through a unit when Spring Break hits, because they just know we will forget it all,” remarked Young.

Even though this week has passed, the need for tips never goes away.  Here are some points to ponder before the semester ends with a similarly hectic couple of weeks:

  • Prioritize your studies, but also don’t sacrifice your entire social life,” says of Eleanor Young.
  • Mr. Hester advises, “Studying should be a continuous process; at least every other day during the entire school year, you should be studying the material. If you wait until the last minute it’s going to pile up.”
  • “Plan your evenings so you study a little bit each day,” Dr. Keiser suggests.
  • “Pay attention to the style of questioning the teacher will use, and quiz yourself, don’t just read over the notes,”Mrs. Hejna recommends.