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The Struggle is Real: an Overview of the First Semester

“I’m so glad this semester is finally over!” is a phrase that many students uttered after their last class on Friday, January 12th. Teachers and students agree: this semester was demanding, exacting, and unyielding. Final marking periods generally raise stress levels, but why did this semester cause an unusually severe anxiety among members of the community?

The most common explanation regards the abrupt stop in the curriculum caused by Hurricane Sandy. Friends Academy lost almost two weeks of curriculum as a result, confusing lesson plans and test schedules. English teacher Doctor Garrett commented that this period was a “wild and crazy riot.” A two week break with no power, no heat, and no gas left returning students and teachers scrambling to get the courses back on track.  

After we returned to school, the question was: how could teachers and students recover this long period of having no classes? The solution was to take away vacation days, go to school on Veterans Day, shorten winter break, and remove all the faculty-in-service days. As expected, students were not very fond of the added days to the school year – especially students whose families had scheduled vacations that could not be re-booked. Despite the well-intentioned effort to make up for the lost days, the added days resulted in distress and confusion.

Junior Kara McNelis referred to the semester as “hectic.” She continued to say that first semester “went by fast because of Sandy, but the break gave students less time to catch up on work. Added days didn’t help as much as expected because students didn’t come to school, and lesson plans were compromised.”

The challenges of Semester One also raised even greater obstacles for the seniors, as Sandy hit when many Early Decision/action applications were due. Those students applying Early Decision were under high pressure, wondering whether or not admissions offices would extend deadlines due to the disaster. Madame Bevad, French teacher and college advisor, stated, “Colleges were very sensitive. Many deadlines were extended, the College Office made phone calls to colleges, and we even took time in the office when school was closed to assist the seniors in getting back on track. I think we as a school made a good effort to recover days from vacation days.”  

Senior Sydney Menzin added that the “timing of the storm was extra stressful for seniors. The grades earned for that part of the year get sent to colleges, so students were concerned about things being calculated accordingly.  Luckily, my teachers were very organized and eager to work with us to make sure everything was in order. Thanks to advanced storm warnings, I quickly sent out a couple of my applications beforehand (hoping to avoid a disaster in case of a power outage!). After the first round of deadlines, the college advisors continually made themselves available, even opening the office on a Saturday and during the holiday vacation for students to work on Regular Decision applications.”

The first semester is notoriously stressful for all grades, but this particular semester was especially difficult thanks to Hurricane Sandy. The struggle was real and demanding, but Friends Academy students and teachers managed to make it through.


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