No, this column is not about zombies. Many of us may resemble zombies during the last week of class but that’s not what this column is about. Rather, it is about a myth that has been repeated so often and with such solemnity that it has taken on the patina of policy.
It goes something like this: during the last week of classes, professors are not to give exams or make projects due. Attendance should be optional and the final exam previewed. It’s also a week that any late assignments may be turned in for at least some credit.
Maybe they could catch their breath before diving deep into study. But these rationalities are not reality. There is no such thing as “dead week” at Murray State.
This proposition may sound familiar. It is also fantasy. It is an imagined mercy wherein hard work is put on hiatus so that students may better prepare for final exams.
They’ll also get to the above mentioned late assignments, too.
Some student groups and residential colleges may put the brakes on during this week, but the classroom is still the classroom. There is important subject matter that still must be covered. There’s a lot to be taught and learned in the course of a semester. Still, there is that persistent plea to let up a little bit toward the end, to have a little rest, to have a week that’s dead.
It is true that being well rested is important while taking an exam. Last minute exam crams are the occasions of little sleep, much anxiety and multiple pizza deliveries. None of them promote good health.
Rest is essential. But that does not mean that a dead week is warranted. Rather, it is probably a good idea to budget time. Contrary to the belief of many, the night before an assignment is due is not the best time to start it. It’s OK to start working on those assignments now.
Students who don’t will have a lot more to do during the supposedly “dead week.” They calculate the lowest possible score they can get on the final and still pass a course, check MyGate to discover it is too late to withdraw from a class, stock up on coffee and energy drinks, look at course syllabi for the first time, experiment with font sizes and margins to see how they can turn an 8 page paper into a 10 page paper, inquire about “extra credit” possibilities, cry, resolve to study hard just as soon as they get through watching everything on their Netflix queue, complain and finally, decide the best thing to do is get some more sleep.
But they don’t.
That’s when the zombies show up.
Don’t be a zombie.
Here’s another idea: What if “dead week” was replaced with “peak week?” In the same manner in which runners condition their bodies to operate a peak performance for a race or marathon, students could so condition their academic performance to peak at the end of the semester.
Conditioned by regular study, exam preparation and completed assignments these students could end the semester in a mighty way. Rather than a time of weeping and gnashing of zombie teeth, it could be the time to shine, a time to come alive. Anxiety would be overcome by preparation.
Trepidation would be replaced with confidence. Caffeine consumption would plummet.
So, gentle reader, let’s kill “dead week.” Whenever the mythical “dead week” is mentioned let’s respond with “peak week.”
Get conditioned. Be prepared. Sketch out your game plan. There is Canvas waiting for you.
Dec 1-5 is peak week. Pass it on.
Column by Kevin Qualls, Professor of mass communications