Senior spring, as a concept, exists in most high schools across the country, but Urban’s competitive environment and trimester system makes the pandemic of senioritis take a unique form. Urban’s core values state that learning is “an active, joyful process of discovery where students are challenged to ask essential questions, solve problems in disciplined and creative ways, and construct substantive understandings under the guidance of passionate and inspiring teachers,” with less emphasis on letter grades or performance for the purpose of college transcripts. This idea of learning for the sake of learning initially seems to somewhat conflict the idea that, once students have gotten into college, they may put less effort into their schoolwork. If they were truly learning just to learn, the impact of their grades on their college prospects shouldn’t affect their performance in class.
Cathleen Sheehan, who teaches the all-senior Advanced Shakespeare class, said that she sees seniors’ approach to learning in a different way, which causes her to teach with alternative objectives in mind. “My goal in that class is to keep students engaged, to keep you thinking critically, and to keep you interested in writing your opinions, with some clarity and some polish and some proofreading,” Sheehan said. This method usually succeeds at motivating students who no longer feel they that have an obligation to get stellar grades– “it’s a rare student who doesn’t continue to work well in senior spring in that class,” Sheehan said in an interview with The Legend. Students can also motivate each other to work. “I think it’s because the class is bigger and I tend to have two sections, there’s more of a sense of people being beholden to each other,” Sheehan said. “If only a few people in the class have done the reading, then discussion is tedious and horrible.”
Adam Baron, a current senior, noticed the conflicting messages in the relaxing power of senior spring. “My older brother Ben, who’s a junior in college now, his senior spring was not at all restful– I think he took like three UAS classes,” Baron said. “I had this conflict between everyone telling me to relax and my second-hand experience telling me it wasn’t really going to be different from other terms…then in junior spring, where I was grinding and had all these senior friends who were just chilling, I was like ‘Oh my god, that’s so nice, I can’t wait for that,’” said Baron. Ultimately, in Baron’s case, senior spring lived up to and even exceeded expectations. “Right now, I’m cruising. And even last term, I wasn’t as worried about things, even though I had a great deal of work due,” Baron told The Legend. However, the reduction of stress does not always mean the reduction of learning, or even effort. “And what came along with that was starting to get less bitter about school,” Baron continued. “At the end of last term and certainly this term, I’ve felt like hey, learning’s great, if it’s hard that’s part of the experience. That’s something I’m definitely hoping to take into college… what’s interesting is that I’m actually able to be more productive because I’ve been so relaxed.”
Sheehan echoed this statement. “I generally have really enjoyed having seniors in the spring. Ideally, and this is often the case, seniors are less driven to get a grade or get something on their transcripts without feeling completely pointless. They’re really engaging with the material; it’s more fun, more responsive, and more flexible.”