BY IT’S MI-AGAIN (CELA MIGAN) —
As the last bell rung, signaling the end of seventh hour and the start of spring break, I left school elated, choosing to ignore the pit of worry that had formed within the depths of my stomach. I had hoped, as the week progressed, to find out that my teachers were letting me off the hook with homework and projects, but, sadly, that was not the case.
It was professed to me multiple times that the assigned homework was not due as soon as we got back from break, but rather the week of. This seemed to be a poor substitution to me. If teachers assured us we wouldn’t have to work on it over break, why would they assign it?
Why let us go on our spring break with the ever-looming guilt and dread of knowing that once the break ended we would be drowning in homework and projects? Upon returning from break, the furious scramble would begin to finish assignments put off by plans and procrastination. To spare students the stress and sanity, teachers should not assign homework or projects before break.
Teachers do assign homework before break as a courtesy to notify the student of the impending due date and give them a chance to get a head start, but this often only inspires feelings of panic and awful foreboding for both those who are going away and staying home.
I did not jet off on an exotic trip over spring break, opting instead to stay within Shorewood. The free time I could have enjoyed was tarnished by feelings of guilt and obligation. I felt the need to start chipping away at the mountain of assignments that awaited me in order to not be thoroughly buried once school resumed.
The purpose of a break is to give the students and faculty a chance to rest and recharge, which the students are unable to do with assignments hanging over their heads.
The 2009 documentary film Race to Nowhere brought attention to the stress placed on students regarding the competitiveness and overscheduling in schools. It advocated for change in the school system and for educators to get rid of homework over weekends and breaks.
Race to Nowhere was shown in more than 7,000 schools and was a factor in the decision to prohibit homework for elective classes at the Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, NJ.
A study at Duke University, led by Professor Harris Cooper, published in the spring 2006 edition of Review of Educational Research, found that homework has a positive effect on achievement — so long as it’s within moderation. The research was consistent with a “ten-minute rule,” suggesting the prime amount of homework that teachers should assign. The rule works in having teachers increase the amount of homework given by ten minutes for each grade; so a third grader would have 30 minutes of homework and a high school senior would have two hours.It should also be under consideration that students complete assignments at different rates. One student could finish all of their assignments on the first day of the break or be just fine starting and completing it the week that school resumes. Another may need all of break and not have the chance because of vacation plans.
The school board for the Princeton Public Schools in Princeton, NJ passed a resolution in 2015 that implemented one homework-free weekend per semester and banned projects or tests from being due immediately after a break. Its purpose was to allow the students time to read for pleasure, explore their interests outside of school, spend time with their family and engage in outside activities.
Students should leave school jubilant for spring break and not be brought down by the prospect of assignments. Instead of assigning homework with strict due dates, teachers could offer extra credit projects, or suggest reading for fun or exploring an activity related to what’s going on in the classroom. Spring break is all about rest, relaxation, recreation and recharging — it should not come with strings attached.