It’s no secret that the competitive nature of WW-P leads to a hefty workload. That’s why district administration recently scheduled four “No Homework Nights” in an attempt to alleviate student stress. Here, the staff discusses the new policy.
A false sense of relaxation
During the school year, every weekday means taking refuge in your room—and, on your way there, trying to avoid any shiny object that might distract you from starting work. The homework load is consistent throughout the year, and you hardly find a day where fewer than three teachers have something for you to do.
Every teacher runs a tight schedule with his or her lesson plans, and most of them use the same yearly schedule that they created when they began teaching the course. So when a “No Homework Night” is announced, some may simply look for a loophole to circumvent it.
The problem with “No Homework Nights,” although a noble idea, is that many teachers will just “suggest” that work should be done or simply give it to you the next day, along with the homework that was originally planned for that day. Both scenarios undermine the purpose of this day of relaxation and family invigoration. If the work is “suggested,” then the student is compelled to do it or he faces falling behind in the class. If the work is given with the originally planned homework the day after the “No Homework Night,” then it completely defeats its purpose, because students are just forced to do the work later, which merely pushes stress from one day to the next.
The real truth is that the work is going to be assigned, and whether stated or not, teachers will expect you to do it, making No Homework nights lead to a misplaced sense of relaxation. It is a great idea and shows promise for the future, but it does not solve any student’s needs and will probably never be properly executed.
You’re in WWP, get over it
One of the first things a student receives during her first day at North is the famous HSN Student Handbook. Trash to some, and treasure to others, the agenda is meant to serve a single purpose: to aid students in their homework assignment navigation.
At one time or another, most students have probably uttered something along the lines of “I have a lot of homework tonight.” This is one of the prices a student at a Blue Ribbon School must pay, a sacrifice that leads to higher education and, eventually, a satisfactory job.
Homework isn’t a punishment. The amount of work you get throughout your education usually increases overall and is determined by the difficulty level of the class. Putting in time for classes at home is useful not only to learn new information but also, perhaps more frequently, to retain and better understand knowledge acquired through the day.
At North, we have the privilege of being taught by people who care about our classes as much, or almost as much, as we do. For teachers it is not uncommon to prepare the lesson plans to the month, or in rare cases the year, as it works out in many AP classes. All classes, AP or not, require a specialized and specific syllabus for the year, which the teacher must design, and having a “No Homework Night” just hinders their progress with that syllabus.
This district mandate has good intentions for students struggling with the workload. However, it seems to undermine the high expectations of the district curriculum and the unspoken ones of excellence from both teachers and students.
At the end of the day, or all-nighter, if you wanted less schoolwork or homework, you should have scheduled differently. Don’t blame teachers for teaching.
No-Homework Nights Are an Unhelpful Band-Aid
No Homework Nights are the equivalent of using a band-aid to patch a bullet wound. In other words, they are a consolation prize. They do nothing to address the bigger problem at hand. While they are a nice sentiment and a step in the right direction, they are not the solution.
There never truly is no homework. While teachers are prevented from assigning work to be due the next day, there are always projects and long-term assignments, as well as future exams and midterms. And while teachers aren’t supposed to give tests the day after a No Homework Night, some do anyway. Students will find themselves doing some sort of work either way.
On a broad scale, a handful of No Homework Nights are not going to change much. They reduce stress for only a couple of hours, and they certainly don’t affect the way things are run at the school as a whole. If the problem is that students have too much work and can’t spend time with family, and the district really wants to focus on resolving this, then it needs to take bigger, more ambitious steps.
The real issue is the environment at North. While we pride ourselves on our hard work, there is also a steady undercurrent of pressure that comes with this. To make No Homework Nights function, the district would need to make changes to the curriculum. Additionally, No Homework Nights are unfair to teachers. Teachers struggle with No Homework Nights because their lessons and course-load are so time-sensitive already without having to take days off. No Homework Nights force teachers and students to cram work in so they can stick to their schedule.
While No Homework Nights sound pretty on paper, the reality is they don’t fix anything. In fact, they ultimately cause schedule disruptions and controversy. Either No Homework Nights need to be seriously revised, or the district needs to think of something new.
No Homework Night Should Mean No Homework, Right?
Personally, I really like the idea of having “No Homework Nights,” and I’m sure a lot of other students do, too. However, it seems like they aren’t being carefully enforced. Many students claim their teachers ignored the October 22 No Homework Night. Other teachers may not have given homework but managed to find some kind of loophole. Some of these loopholes are scheduling a test for the next day and giving students the option to do an assignment at home or in class, which makes students more inclined to do it at home, defeating the purpose.
It is understandably difficult for teachers to reschedule homework assignments planned well ahead of time, especially if the homework assignments are built into a set lesson plan. After all, the district didn’t give teachers much notice ahead of the No Homework Night scheduled for October 22. However, now that teachers understand the system, they have no excuse.
It should be acknowledged that the purpose of these nights is to help reduce the students’ stress level. In addition, there should be more than four of these nights, since four is not enough to even make a dent in a student’s stress. Often times, teachers assign homework just as busy work, so more “No Homework Nights” wouldn’t necessarily affect a student’s productivity level.
Keep the Concept, Change the Timing
No Homework Nights can’t simply be thrown into the middle of a marking period, because they interrupt the stream of learning. Teachers are affected, because they have to reshape lesson plans, and are left virtually immobile since they cannot assign supporting work that night. Students too are hindered, because their learning is broken up. In subjects such as math and science, practice and reinforcement through homework is key to learning.
Instead, administration should reschedule these No Homework nights at the beginning of marking periods. This will keep teachers’ lesson plans intact, because they will have just started a new unit. Students will be better able to enjoy these nights because, at the beginning of academic units, there won’t be as much cumulative learning as there is in the middle of a unit, so students’ practice of concepts won’t be hurt.
Additionally, the end of the marking period typically brings a flurry of homework, quizzes, tests, and projects, so students and teachers could both use a break after the mad dash to Infinite Campus.
Homework is only important if you want it to be.
Let’s face it: nobody really likes homework. We don’t wake up at 6:30 am and spend seven hours in school for the pleasure of spending another five hours bent over a textbook and laptop while the world outside our strained periphery flashes by in a time lapse of missed opportunities. No Homework Nights, in this respect, are a good way to give students a break from the daily grind and give them a chance to get outside, read a book or have dinner with their family. But four nights a year do not do justice to this all-important part of childhood, one that is eroding fast under the constant pressure of expectations and a stagnating job market.
When homework is forced upon students, it doesn’t have the effect teachers want it to—instead, it fosters bitterness and resentment, and destroys excitement to learn. No Homework Nights every night isn’t necessarily my solution, but if teachers were to offer optional work after a lesson, or interesting supplementary readings and worksheets, or even recommendations for videos online or articles, the student’s interest in their education would reflect genuine motivation rather than the desire to add yet another meaningless numerical value to their GPA. This would make for far more engaged students, and would allow them to explore their passions and stick to them rather than be turned off by the idea of school in general due to its association with the unpleasantness of calculus homework or mandatory reading.
Someone very wise once told me to never let school get in the way of my education. This is an important philosophy that, in a world of Ivy League pressures and constant striving, is being ignored—to the detriment of American kids everywhere.