It’s nearing the end of December, and what’s next? Winter Break? I can’t tell over the rising sound of Christmas carols. December is a busy month for us all. It’s the height of fall, pumpkin spice everything, comfy sweaters, and most importantly, snow days. We’re all caught up in the hype of the winter coming. But there’s one thing halting these tremendous celebrations.
All too often I see teachers assigning mountains of work throughout this busy time of year. Is there really a Thanksgiving BREAK? A Christmas BREAK? A Spring BREAK? Is there really even a time given to us when we don’t have something due the day we get back?
According to research done at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, “excessive homework is associated with high stress levels, physical health problems and lack of balance in children’s lives; 56% of the students in the study cited homework as a primary stressor in their lives.” This research was conducted on upper-middle class families because the value of homework in these families is unquestioned. The pressure to do well in school and also translate that into doing well in the workplace is more accepted and normal in affluent families.
Okay, so not everyone at Leonardtown High School comes from a wealthy family. What about the average high schooler? According to New York University’s statistical analysis, nearly 49% of all students in the United States reported feeling high amounts of stress on a daily basis. This stress is directly related to extra curriculars, sports, volunteer work, college preparedness, and most importantly, homework. In addition to stress, depression is also widespread amongst teens due to the high levels of stress with which they deal.
The problem isn’t the homework itself. Homework is an important part of a student’s education. It solidifies the information we learn at school, and provides more opportunities for practice on new topics. It’s not that students should not be given homework.
The issue is the level of homework given. Studies done in Penn State’s Education Policy Studies department show that the more specific the homework given, the better students will understand. Gerald LeTendre, head of the Penn State’s Education Policy Studies department says, “”Let’s say you assigned a worksheet on addition of two-digit numbers. If that’s what the child’s been having difficulty with, then maybe the child, by doing it over and over, can figure it out and make some improvements…Maybe the child still doesn’t get it and you need to talk about carrying the one. Or maybe the child knows how to do it and is bored to tears. If there’s no feedback and no monitoring, the homework is probably not effective.” Homework should be a learning experience, not a chore that makes students stressed, or a useless activity that takes time away from their extracurriculars and family.
The solution, says LeTendre, is “identifying the specific area where the child needs skill-building work, assigning that homework at an individual level, and then going over it with the child at regular periods to be certain that they’re making progress.” Unfortunately, that type of homework isn’t seen much anywhere.
No one enjoys doing homework. Sadly, that will not change no matter what kind, or how much homework teachers give. But, maybe homework can actually teach students the subjects, rather than be a kind of twisted torture it is now.