Student stress remains the same after “homework-free” Thanksgiving


Tal Marom

As I was watching all my friends’ Snapchat stories on Monday morning before school, as I usually do, I was surprised. An overwhelming number of my friends were up until 2 a.m. or later finishing homework. I’m very familiar with these types of snaps: a hastily taken picture of a desk with piles of work to be finished, along with the digital clock filter in the early morning hours, complaining about their 4:00 a.m. bedtime.

I thought we didn’t have any homework to do over break. Mrs. Scott did send an email to the student body on the staff’s collective decision, made in March, to prevent teachers from assigning homework over Thanksgiving break as a means to reduce stress.

Nonetheless, many students were indeed stressed out and exhausted the day we came back from break. My seven-period day was rife with students complaining about “how much homework we had last night” and aggressively arguing with teachers who assigned homework that carried over into our four days off.

It was clear that some of our teachers, who were a part of forming the staff’s collective decision back in March, did in fact assign homework over break. Did they completely go against the administration’s guidelines? Not exactly. Instead, they took to loopholes. One of my teachers gave us multiple worksheets to be done by Monday. When questioned by the class, this teacher pointed out that we “had all of class to finish them.” Yet, those same worksheets showed up in a few Snapchat stories, with the clock reading 3:12 a.m. in one of them.

I felt the angry and frustrated mood on campus today. It might seem unfair to many that some teachers decided to ignore the administration’s intentions. And to be honest, it’s somewhat unprofessional of teachers who chose to do so. It delegitimizes the administration’s authority and undermines its unity.

However, I understand their willingness to dissent from the expectation placed on them. To me, the Thanksgiving pause on homework and projects was too good to be true. Sure, it was nice to take four days to do absolutely nothing, but my worksheets on the Innate Immune System won’t just flutter off into space. And neither will my Jane Eyre research paper. And neither will my reading notes on binomial distribution. All the material that we put on hold still has to be learned.

Don’t confuse my sentiments. I highly appreciate the staff’s ongoing attempts to reduce student stress, which is an extremely important issue. The fact that they are doing anything at all is pretty significant on its own. But if we’re talking about effectiveness, a four day postponement of homework doesn’t really cut it. Principal Scott might have received a few emails from happy parents who had the privilege of spending time with their children, but it’s the children, not the parents, who will now have to cram in the busy month of December as teachers rush to squeeze in the remaining material that could have been assigned over break. This is arguably a recipe for disaster.

If the administration is serious about reducing student stress on campus, forcing teachers to slam the brakes on academics for four days is definitely not the solution. It simply incentivizes finding creative ways around the rule, with the unfortunate effect of undermining the staff’s unity and ability to change the status quo collectively.

If we want to see real change, how about we put later start times on the agenda. Or simply stop grading homework. In the search for effective solutions, and an end to late night snapchat stories featuring homework, we can’t waste time thinking within a traditional, restrictive box.