Artwork by Zaria Cain-Williams
As a senior at Falmouth High School, I have found myself in different levels of classes with teachers that not only gave different amounts of homework but also different difficulty levels of the homework given. I have had years where I had no after school activities, years when I worked and focused on family responsibility, and years when I had school responsibility being involved in clubs and organizations as well as out of school responsibilities with family and working. Therefore, I would consider myself a prime example of someone who has seen both the success and destruction homework can have on a student.
It is no surprise that homework is considered either a burden or a catalyst on the road to success for high school students around the globe. Whether in advanced placement courses or need-based programs, students at some point are given work to complete outside of school hours. Being involved in student clubs, sports, the arts, or whatever personal interests or responsibilities a student may have, can impact the amount and intensity of homework. Although homework can be a great help, it just as easily can be harmful.
When I was constantly missing school throughout my sophomore year due to the loss of a family member, homework was the only thing that kept me from failing my classes. I was able to pick up a folder of work to do at home or email my teachers online to know what we had learned in class that day. I had to advocate for myself and be intentional about emailing my teachers in order to get this information, which is why I was successful. Although I had to teach myself some of the content until I got back to school, I found that I wasn’t as far behind as I might have been without the help of the homework.
Yet, in contrast, there have been other situations where I didn’t email my teachers for whatever reason, maybe too much emotional distress or having no internet connection. It would have been almost impossible for me to make up the homework. Although extra time is usually given to make up absent work, the stress of having a large pile on my plate negatively affected me. I would try to get rid of the pile in front of me rather than actually trying to learn. In this way, homework was not helpful.
At a recent Falmouth School Committee meeting, I, along with other students, admitted that instead of making sure we know the content for the class, it is easier to get homework done with little effort to decrease the amount of time it takes to finish the work–sometimes even waking up at 4 am to finish what is due in class that day or not going to school. This stress is extremely detrimental to the student and makes the potential for a healthy high school experience almost impossible.
Teachers do have a criteria to meet. This is well known by most students and well understood. Yet, in hopes to get a deeper understanding of the advisory perspective, I reached out to Ms. Gans, Principal of FHS. She said, “in general homework has a purpose, but I do not believe that homework is necessary in every course every single night. It would be great if we could create a system at FHS that allowed us to see how much homework all teachers are giving each night, so that we could make informed decisions about homework.” It is helpful to know that the administration hears the crying calls of students who feel the unbearable workload of homework and the consequences it can cause.
Although I am thankful for the ability to advocate for myself to get my work done during tough times, not all students are able and willing to do so. Each student is different, and I believe that homework load and intensity should be designed to accommodate and guide all types of students on their learning journey. This means taking into account that all classes usually give out some level of homework, and if each class is giving out rigorous and large amounts, the student is most likely not learning but mindlessly doing the work to diminish stress. Or students are doing nothing at all because of its overwhelming effect. This is not something to take lightly. Homework is more impactful than most take into account. Please consider these effects and speak up on behalf of students.