Homework over break

A common argument is that everyone needs a break from their daily routine. However, when students get homework over a holiday, how much of a break is it really? 

Cammie Rosen (’16) believes that, “break is a time that you should be able to completely relax and clear your mind of all stress…But, because of homework, I feel like I don’t get a break since I still have to worry about due dates.”

On the other hand, Science Teacher David Partridge points out that some students prefer getting homework over break, instead of before or after, and because of that, teachers cannot please all of their students.

John Carrafiell (’18) is one such student that would rather have homework during a vacation. “I would prefer to have some work over the break rather than cramming it all in right before break,” he said.

However, teachers, especially those that teach Advanced Placement (AP) classes, feel that assigning homework over break is crucial. Social Studies Teacher Jason Cancella said that he does not actively design projects to be completed over vacation, but, sometimes, he needs to assign work due to the “time pressures” to get through material that usually come along with AP classes.

Another thing that goes along with AP classes are certain expectations. Partridge believes that students entering AP classes should expect to receive assignments during breaks.

However, Partridge always tries to give his students sufficient time before and after break to get the work done. This way, even if the student cannot do the work over break, it is still possible to complete it. Partridge believes that many teachers, especially in the science department, do the same.

Cancella takes a different approach to reducing the effect of homework over breaks. He tries to “push hard the rest of the time” to keep the amount of work during vacations to a minimum.

Most students are aware of the reasons behind assigning work during a holiday. “I see how it is necessary for teachers to sometimes give us homework [over breaks],” Rosen said.

Despite getting homework during vacations, Rosen still feels she is able to properly recover over break, “because there is not the same load, since you don’t have to do homework every night.”

It is not as if teachers do not understand that students need breaks. As Cancella put it, “I am of the opinion that everyone needs a break. At the same time, I worry that a week or two weeks is a long time to totally disengage with the material you’re working with.”

Cancella added that, while students do not realize it most of the time, they are “competing with kids from other schools that have longer school days and more school days” and that doing some work over break is not too much to ask, especially because the school, while it is very competitive, provides a very “comfortable” environment for students.

Partridge believes another advantage to giving homework over break is that it is another way to prepare students for college. As in college “you get a considerable amount of work over breaks,” he said.

Both Cancella and Partridge agreed that in non-AP classes, neither of them feel as much of a push to assign homework over break as AP time pressures do not exist. Cancella said, “in non-APs there needs to be more of a clear end game” behind the homework, whereas in AP classes there is an enormous amount of information that needs to be covered, and giving homework on holiday helps to accomplish this goal.

In terms of quality of the homework over break, neither teacher noticed a real difference – good or bad. However, Cancella said that, while sometimes he wishes he could just assign reading, because “students don’t always treat reading as an obligation.

“In my experience, if I just assign reading without any application. The quality drops off, in the sense that students have not read,” he said. Yet, if there is an assignment covering the contents of the reading, so that the knowledge from the reading must be demonstrated, then there is no difference in quality.

Partridge believes that it is up to students to solve the problem of having too much homework over break. “It is not on the teachers, it is on the students to choose a balanced course load they can handle and are comfortable with,” he said. “A kid who chooses four AP classes is setting themselves up for a lot of homework over break.”

Even though Rosen feels she is able to recuperate over breaks where homework is given, she wants more homework-free breaks. “I would like a little more time off where I don’t have to worry about anything, especially being a junior…with so many extracurriculars,” Rosen said. “Then, I could do things I couldn’t normally do on a regular weekend or during the week.”