Professor POV on Finals with Peter Wong

It's that time of the quarter again. FINALS! Students buzz around like our school's mascot, hyped up on caffeine, sleep deprivation and stress. This quarter though, I began to think about finals from a different perspective. After all my years as a SCADIE, I have never thought about how the professors feel about finals. Are they just as stressed as us? Do they anticipate the coming holiday/summer breaks from class like we do? Or is that cool and collected vibe they display throughout the quarter just a continuation of how they are outside the hive? To find out, I interviewed Peter Wong, a graphic design professor with 30+ years of experience in the field and the classroom to find out what he thinks of finals.

Image courtesy of Peter Wong.

Chel Howard: So professor, we're at the end of the quarter. Do you feel the same amount of anxiety this time of the quarter as your students?Peter Wong: Having gone through four finals a year for many years, I must say that I am just as stressed as my first year in teaching. When finals come around, there is a feeling of panic among many of the students, and they will come by seeking feedback and assistance. And they want as much time as possible. This wears me down usually, because it is all mental and some emotional energy that is consumed here. On the last day, some will miss deadlines or hand in incomplete final projects. Last, collecting and documenting work, grading, final quarter paperwork, assessments, reviews, reports, etc. all add to the stress level as well. Yes, as faculty we face the same stress and anxiety as well, just in a different way. 

CH: How do you mentally approach finals? Do you have any special Jedi mind tricks to keep calm?PW: The lack of sleep and not making it a point to take care of one's body are two of the main culprits for one to perform poorly near the end. During these times, injuries and accidents tend to happen more often to students and their projects. Even if you cannot have your full eight hours of sleep, you need to take power naps during the day, and then take cold showers to wake you up to continue your work and keep up with deadlines. Try to eat healthy food and take your vitamins. Load up on Cs and Bs complex, to help the body deal with the stress it is facing. It is during these last weeks that your body needs help. Throw in some physical workouts to help calm you down. A short run or lifting weights in the gym are helpful. For others, meditation or yoga might help. Meditation to calm me down usually does not work ... I will just fall asleep. 

CH: Many students go without sleep or food during this time (this is not recommended by SCAD or any health professionals). Would you say the same happens to you as well?PW: I probably lose sleep during the first three or four days after projects are all handed in. All the things I mentioned earlier that I have to do, takes the most time. Some other faculty are very efficient with their paperwork. I just need more time to deliberate on grades and assessments and the paperwork. Even if I don't have enough sleep, I try to eat wisely and keep up with my normal physical workouts.

CH: Do you think finals and how students approach them has changed since you were in school?PW: No. Having observed student behavior over the years, I must admit that what I had gone through during my finals as a student is very similar to what students go through today. At the beginning of the term, students tend to take their time because they are not feeling the stress yet. They tend to take things a little too easy sometimes. Once mid-terms are over and all the larger projects are due, I start to see their stress level increase. There are always the few who never let anything faze them. From these students, I either see very good work or very poor work done. Either they are very disciplined and on schedule, or they are just letting everything take its course and not caring about the final outcome. It is about the same now as back then. The only difference are the tools we use. Back then everything was done by hand and in the dark room; very laborious and time consuming. It is much easier now with computers and color printers. So, in a way, since the production of work is easier now on the production side, students should have more time to refine and have better results, but I am not seeing that in general. But to be fair, some projects these days have gotten larger and more complex as well.

CH: One last question, from your experience, do you have any advice about how students could possibly handle finals better? PW: It all starts in your mind. Mental discipline is needed I believe. Plan ahead, and work out a schedule to produce the work, and stick to it a much as possible. In college, I had a large schedule in front of my bed showing every project and their due dates. I worked my schedule backwards and created a timeline for me to complete the work on time. I alloted so much time to each activity, and stuck to it. For example: concepting and sketching was two hours, research was five hours, design and layout was six hours etc. Many of the projects will overlap during the day with classes, part-time work, etc. It is because you do not have enough time to do all that you must, you need to be very disciplined with your time and activities. This will mean giving up socializing to get an hour of extra sleep and so forth. Making good choices and good decisions are important as well. If you take a long time deciding on a design direction, you will not have enough time to work through a project and meet the deadline. To have the best work, you need to be working out details and refining your work throughout the creative and production process. Again, this takes time. Some who are not managing their time well are late in handing in their projects, but have great work. Conversely, one can be on time and have poor results also. Both are not good. So, just being efficient and timely in itself is not enough. The final work needs to be excellent. To have the best results, a few things need to be in place. Good time management—research, concepting, refining the work, self discipline, anticipating problems along the way, and attention to every detail must all work together in a beautiful dance. I wish everyone great success.