There are many reasons why I never was particularly fond of final exams. Some are because of the “final” part and the rest are about the “exam” part.
I don’t recall taking any until seventh grade, but I didn’t mind them too much because I had the wrong idea about the “final.”
I figured, “I’m not too crazy about this idea, but as long as these are the final exams I’m going to have to take, I guess I can put up with them this year.”
You can imagine my surprise when my teachers gave them again in every grade afterward. Talk about false advertising!
Another thing is that I never had a good experience with the word “final” as a kid. My brothers and I would try to whine and wheedle our way to stay up past our bedtime.
Mother and dad would put up with that to a point, but it wasn’t too long before one of them would say in no uncertain terms, “For the final time, get upstairs now.” We skedaddled up the stairs to be able to whine again another day.
There was sometimes an air of finality when it came to shopping trips. We never had a shortage of toys, but we would head to the toy department of a department store with the unerring instinct of a hungry dog scurrying to the kitchen at the sound of a can being opened.
We would beg and plead for a toy a minute or two before mother would just say, “No toy and that’s final.”
These final warnings certainly did not make me feel warm and cozy whenever my teachers would start talking about final exams.
The sad part is that I surprisingly good grades in elementary school and even seventh grade, but I hit a brief, five-year slump after that.
The saddest part is that you could get out of taking a final in any subject in which you had a 90 or above. There were classes where I would not have hit that average even if the teacher had spotted me 15 or 20 points.
I did luck out that there was no final exam in vocational education classes (then known as shop), given my total lack of talent in any task involving carpentry, electricity or metal working.
If I had had to pass a final, I would still be in a basement workshop trying to make my 1,223rd meat-cutting board come out level while using a plane to shave it down to splinters.
I almost had to do better in my other subjects simply because I was so lousy at that one. One notable exception would have been geometry, but that might have been because it was plane geometry and I was still traumatized as a result of my experience with that tool in shop.
For some unknown reason, the only subject I remember being exempt from a final was chemistry, of all things. I was actually fairly decent at balancing equations, which was probably because that did not involve either geometry or planes.
Otherwise, I had to take every final exam, which was unfortunate for two very good reasons. The first was that the tests were dreaded comprehensive finals in which you were expected to know everything covered in that class from the first day of school until the day of the final.
My memory was much better than it is now, so I could remember things I learned up to a few days before. However, that did me little good for the other 175 or so days of class.
Also, teachers did not believe in study guides. If someone asked what would be on the test, the answer would be “everything in the book and the notes.” To this day, I don’t know why I’m not still in 10th grade trying to plane my geometry until comes out level.