McClatchy cancels finals week, opts for social/emotional learning ‘Winter Reset’


Dinara Brown, C. K. McClatchy

The change in title of Finals Week Schedule to “Winter Reset” schedule is one of many changes to Finals Week at C.K. McClatchy High School. For starters, the traditional cumulative finals have been canceled. 

Teachers had met with Counselor Andrea Montgomery and Principal Andrea Egan to come up with a new plan for Winter Reset Week. When asked about what this plan entails, Montgomery reported that, “The plan for finals will consist of a great deal of information provided to students regarding the services that are available to them here at CKM. There will also be modules that will allow students to really think about what they need right now, how to cope with what is happening and has happened during this pandemic.” A week that was once filled with final exams has changed to a week of social and emotional learning for students.

Heather Cuda, a math teacher at C.K. McClatchy High School, also spoke about the new plan, “The school’s plan for finals is to address some of the concerns, the social and emotional concerns that we have on our campus at a time that I think is appropriate”. From this, it seems that many kids have been reaching out to find support during COVID. 

Montgomery later confirmed these concerns, saying, “Students have asked for groups that can help them manage stress, anxiety, peer relations and coping with difficult times that vary from losing a loved one to moving or breaking up with a significant other. Having just conducted student surveys last year, this was made clear by students that were willing to provide their input on how our high school could improve.”

Despite the fact that students have expressed a need for this support, members of the CKM staff are unsure of how effective this new plan will be. English teacher, William Maxwell, thinks that, “it won’t be taken seriously by a good number of people.” 

Maxwell was not totally sure of his views on the matter. He brought up the fact that during suicide prevention week at the school, he had, “a huge chunk of the class who were laughing at it and criticizing the video.” Even so, “If there’s three people in the room that it resonates with, isn’t that important?” he questions.

Like Maxwell, students’ views on the subject of social and emotional learning were also conflicted. The results of a survey that polled 252 students showed an almost even split of opinion. In the poll  52 percent of students predicted that social and emotional learning would not personally benefit them, and 51.2 percent said that they would not even participate in the activities.

This could be due to the fact that students would prefer to use the time spent on these activities, on furthering their education instead. Brian Perry, an English teacher at CKM, gave his perspective, “I understand the desire to help students, but at the same time, and this\ is probably speaking from the kind of students I serve, a lot of my students are counting on the opportunity to raise their grade by taking these finals.” 

Going back to the fact that the campus was so split on opinion, Perry said that, “A campus wide policy like this is one solution for 2300 individuals, and it’s not necessarily the best for everybody.” He feels that, “Teachers can make decisions based on their students, their classes and what’s best for them.”

A common stress among teachers was that they felt unprepared to give social and emotional education to children. History teacher and department head, Bridget Martinez, spoke about the implementation of SEL, “I think the plan has good intentions, but I don’t think that it is being implemented in the right way . . . In order to do something effectively in relation to the social emotional health of our students, there needs to be authenticity and sincerity.” 

Another thing mentioned by Martinez was the lack of teacher input before the choice was made to cancel finals. She brought up the fact that because many teachers were not on board with the decision, they will not be able to properly lead the activities which could ultimately cause the SEL to be more harmful than helpful.

Martinez was not the only one to make note of the absence of teachers’ approval, as the only teachers who were included in the meeting with the counselor and principal were the heads of each academic department. When asked if he would have liked to be included in the meeting, Perry (who is not a department head), shared, “Yeah, I think a decision this big . . . It seems like we should have had a larger discussion.” He then went on stating that hearing feedback from unrepresented staff members could have been considered. 

The reason for some teachers’ more negative reactions is not only because of their personal opinions, but also because of their consideration of how it will affect students. Once again, teachers were concerned that their lack of training would make it difficult to promote SEL.

In a follow up survey, done after the Winter Reset Week, 69% of students said that they felt that the social and emotional learning activities did not benefit them. 

Maxwell explained his view on the reasoning for this outcome, “SEL is an awesome thing. I think it’s just really hard to, out of the blue, sell kids on SEL from teachers who are not really trained in doing it.”

Despite the fact that the plan may not have been as successful as hoped, its original goals were met. History teacher, and HISP coordinator, Ellen Wong, says that her intentions in following the plan were, “to alleviate some stress of the unknown.”

Even so, many thought that it was not executed properly. Some felt that the school’s response to COVID related absences was not completely thought out. Perry’s description of it as “a knee jerk reaction to a potential problem” was not an uncommon view of the Winter Reset Week.