By: Jillian Applegate ’25
-Photo credit: Boarding School Review
At Hebron Academy, our students are plagued with excessive amounts of work. According to onlinedegrees.sandiego.edu, “Excessive homework is associated with high-stress levels, physical health problems, and lack of balance in children’s lives.” This is because of how much time and energy a large amount of homework takes out of a student’s home life. On weekdays, school starts at 8:30 and ends at 5:00 (including after-school activities because they are a requirement at Hebron). That is 8 hours and 30 minutes of school each day. In comparison, the average amount of school in Maine is about 6 hours and 47 minutes. Adding homework on top of those extra hours doesn’t help the mental health of the students. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, belonging and love are the third most important category of needs. When a student only has roughly an hour and a half to socialize on a weekday, it makes it more difficult to achieve the deep connections that humans need when most of our students, especially when they live so far away from their parents which are often where a child obtains most of their emotional support and security. With all of these in mind, I propose three different solutions.
First, we can start shifting our curriculum to be more project-based. Even though this would include a lot of changes and planning, this method has been proven to improve the learning of students. According to nwcommons.nwciowa.edu, “The students who participated in the PBL on the rock unit were much more engaged through the 19 days of instruction, than the students who were taught with a more traditional approach.” Because the students using PBL were more engaged, they likely learned more. We can decrease homework by making each project take about a week to complete as well as having students work on those projects in and out of class instead of just assigning homework.
Second, we can decrease our school hours. This can help both the problems that I have listed AND a completely different problem, sports trips. Many students have to travel VERY far in order to play against other schools. This leads them to miss many important classes and assignments on top of the homework that they are already given. If we decrease our school days to ending at 2:00 pm or 2:30 pm, students will have more time to do their homework and the students who are participating in sports will miss fewer classes.
Third, reducing summer reading to two books that the student/s chose at most. This is because according to katiecouric.com, claims that adults ages 18 to 34 read about 13 books a year on average which they likely choose for themselves. If a student gets more than 3 to 4 books over the summer, that would be the average for an adult that (again) likely chose those books. According to scholastic.com, teenagers ages 15 to 17 read about 2 books per summer which give kids enough time to read the books they are given while also having the time to read the books they genuinely enjoy. One may wonder what is bad about having more books, they are good for kids after all. But what if the problem wasn’t just the fact that there are books needed to read, but there are also problems with boundaries. According to charityjob.co.uk, “Separating your work and personal life not only increases efficiency at work, but it also reduces stress in your personal life. Both of these mean more relaxation and less burnout.” This can be applied to school life as well. Their break will be less stressful and they will be ready for the next school year.
Lastly, you can just do all of them. This way, you can get the best of both worlds. One of the things that I learned this year was that our brains often associate certain spaces, smells, and tastes with certain emotions, memories, etc. When a boarding student at Hebron comes back from their summer vacation, the classroom is associated with schoolwork, getting students in the proper headspace for work which is a good thing. However, when we give students an excessive amount of homework, their dorm rooms become associated with schoolwork, making it harder to wind down and feel comfortable. When we extend that work to their homes, they feel less like they are allowed to take a break. This often feels invasive in a student’s downtime, why even call it “after school“ when you are constantly doing schoolwork? If we as a community give students a healthy amount of downtime at the very least, we can change this school for the better.
Annotated Bibliography as Required by the Institution for Publication:
Lathan, Joseph “Is Homework Necessary? Education Inequity and Its Impact on Students” onlinedegrees.sandiego
This article explains the benefits of homework as well as its flaws. It states that homework can be beneficial because it teaches students important lessons like time management, but too much can cause students an unnecessary amount of stress and can take over a student’s life. I used this article in order to explain why having a small amount of homework is better for students’ home/dorm lives.
Deitering, Sara “Is Project Based Learning a More Effective Way of Teaching Than Traditional Teaching?” Northwestern College, 2016
This article reinforces my claim that students benefit more from project-based learning. It uses evidence from an experiment to attempt to answer this very question and it showed that it kept the students’ attention span longer when given hands-on activities and/or when told to design or create something.
“A SUMMER READING AWARENESS GAP FOR PARENTS” Scholastic.com
Unlike the two previous articles, I used this one to merely learn the average amount of books read by teenagers. Keep in mind, the reading level and length of the books aren’t included in the statistics as well as the fact that teenagers 14 and older sometimes have jobs and/or go to summer camps during the summer which may be the reason why 15 to 18-year-olds read significantly less than students 14 and younger.
Price, David “Why it’s Important to Keep Your Work and Home Life Separate” Charityjob, 3/20/2023
Even though this article focuses on jobs, it can be extended to school life because of the similarities in workloads to an average office job. It explains that keeping your work and home life as separate as possible is important and people need to be able to set those boundaries.