There is no right or wrong way to get through midterms and finals
HI, my name is Malka. I’m in ninth grade and it’s my first year taking finals. I’m so beyond nervous. I’ve always been the type that stresses about schoolwork, but this is a whole new level. Being tested on a year’s worth of material — how can anyone possibly squash that much information into their brain?
I take my grades very seriously and I’m really anxious about not doing well. I’ve tried going to my teachers and asking them to advise me on a proper and efficient study schedule, but I still don’t feel prepared enough, even with my color-coded, typed study. My teachers said if I follow it, I should be fine.
But who’s to say I won’t go completely blank from sheer nerves? I also have another problem. My friend Sori is usually my study partner, but for finals, I’d really like to study on my own. For one thing, I really only study with Sori for her sake. She’s a much less serious student and her mother always nags her about it. Sori begged me to study with her so her mother wouldn’t be breathing down her back before a test. It was fine at first. I never allowed us to goof off for more than an hour or two before really cracking down, and if Sori got bored, I’d continue on my own.
But now with finals, Sori just expects me to study with her and I know she’s going to be a distraction that I can’t afford. I don’t want to do less than my best and if I’m also responsible for keeping Sori’s nose in her notes, then I’m going to lose out on valuable time I could otherwise be devoting to my own studying.
I feel bad telling Sori I don’t want to study with her; I know she’s going to do poorly without my help. But what if helping her costs me precious time and better grades? I will never feel okay with that. Should I study with Sori or not?
HI, my name is Sori. I’m a typical 14-year-old girl who is really enjoying being in high school. I feel really mature hanging out with older girls and making friends with different people. I honestly enjoy it a lot. Maybe too much, because schoolwork tends to take a back seat. I’ve never been one of those girls who sat in class with a straight spine and a perfectly poised pencil, ready to write down every word the teacher breathed out of her mouth. I always thought those types of girls were dramatic about their grades and way too intense about them. High school’s about having fun, meeting new people, getting into the team spirit, forming friendships that will last a lifetime! Not spending hours poring over books until words blend together in blurry lines, or spending a ridiculous amount of time every night on homework and reports. Nope, that’s just never been me. The funny part about this is my best friend is exactly one of those girls. Malka. I love her to pieces, but she is waaay too involved in her schoolwork. To get that girl to relax and put down her notes is like coaxing a flower out of the ground in the dead of winter. Especially now, with finals around the corner. One thing I do appreciate is that Malka’s studiousness gets me out of a lot of trouble with my mother. My mother has always been upset that I don’t care about my grades and believes I waste a lot of time. She was so relieved when I started studying with Malka because she knew I’d actually get some work done that way.
Now that finals are here, I’m really not in the mood for the seriousness that’s going to take over Malka’s life. I already see that she’s stressing out, pressing every teacher for their ideal study schedule, writing and rewriting her notes. It’s almost unbearable. But I also can’t study without her and my mother would lose it thinking I wasn’t properly prepared for all these big tests. Both options are so annoying. I wish I could help Malka relax a little about all this and then it wouldn’t be so hard to study with her. I’m almost scared to blow my nose or tap my pen when she’s reading her notes out loud, like I’m in detention or something. Any ideas on how to make Malka realize she doesn’t have to be so nervous?
Wow, ninth grade finals! I always loved midterms and finals. I loved the shorter days and the extra freedom that came along with it. I took school seriously, but not as seriously as you. We had a routine where we would go for lunch after our final or midterm and hang out and have fun. I would save the serious studying for after the party was over. In retrospect, not so sure I would recommend that now to my younger self. Studying first and then partying does make for more relaxed final days.
What I am trying to get to with my meandering down memory lane is that there is no right or wrong way to get through midterms and finals.
Your conscientious and responsible attitude toward your studying and schoolwork is admirable! (Can you please become friends with my daughter and influence her?)
Hashem gave us a brain and we are responsible to utilize it properly and not to waste it. Your very short high school experience provides endless opportunities to learn. It is wonderful that you are not wasting those opportunities.
In this area as in most areas of life, balance and communication are key.
Balance means healthy, normal, happy medium. We all think we are the medium and normal and everyone else is either too much one way or the other way.
Malka, you sound like a smart girl — not just with academics. Take some time to think about what a healthy balance means to you in this situation. Does it mean taking a few breaks from studying to join friends for ice cream? Perhaps it means studying in advance for some finals and then joining the study parties even though you know it means more “wasting time.” If your goal in studying is only studying, then yes, every moment that you are not studying you are wasting time. But if your goal is to help the person you’re studying with, to have fun, to develop and deepen relationships, then even if it’s 20 percent studying it would be considered successful.
Communication can only come after you do some introspection and decide what balanced approach you want to take. After that you can talk to Sori in a very straightforward manner and tell her that you love studying with her, but you definitely feel that you take it more seriously than she does and therefore you want to study with her for some but not for all subjects, or for some of the time but not for all of the time.
Remember to be honest but to stay kind and respectful. The fact that you have different studying personalities is not a bad thing, it’s just a thing.
Hatzlachah with all of your finals, studying partners, and of course, those color-codes schedules!
I’m so happy to hear that you are enjoying your high school experience! Take advantage, as it really does fly by.
Isn’t it interesting how best friends are sometimes so different? I think our lives are enriched by our relationships with people who are not like us! They bring out a different appreciation and personality type than we are accustomed to.
Please read my reply to Malka, as communication and balance is very applicable to your scenario as well.
Now to answer your specific question: “How can I make Malka realize that she doesn’t have to be so nervous?”
In life, we can only control ourselves. We are not responsible for our friends’ anxieties, quirks, or mistakes. When you communicate, you can clearly explain your opinions, but your intention cannot be to change Malka.
Friends have a powerful influence on us. Automatically, through osmosis, our perceptions, opinions, and thoughts evolve and change over time based on our experiences and relationships.
So you never know, one day you might be the one with a color-coded schedule and she might be telling you to just chill and live a little!
Focus on the positive aspects of the relationship and on what you love about your friend. If you sit down and make a list of what you value about a friend, you may notice that it’s often not your similarities that you love! The key to maintaining and deepening relationships is to focus on the positive attributes and to respect the other person’s differences without trying to change them.
Hatzlachah on your finals and maybe start photocopying notes now 🙂
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 913)
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