Sunday Reflections: Teachers, Please Stop Giving Kids Homework Over School Breaks
It’s Thanksgiving week and The Teen is doing . . . homework, homework and more homework. She’s done projects. She’s done reports. And today, the last Sunday of her week long holiday break, she’s studying for a test that will be on the Monday after break.
She is not alone. I’ve spoken to many teens who have done a ton of homework this week on holiday break. Families have had to alter plans. My daughter has studied in the car while travelling to Thanksgiving dinner with family. She stayed home while other went and participated in family holiday traditions like looking at lights.
In short, The Teen hasn’t gotten a break at all.
And as her parent, I’m kind of resentful of it, to be honest.
One of the excuses we often hear about homework is that we’re preparing our kids for the world of work. But here’s the thing, a vast majority of the people I know don’t do work they aren’t paid for. I know there are exceptions. My husband is in management and he has left family gathering because an alarm went off or some other issue occurred. But on the whole, when adults aren’t working their time is exactly that, their time.
But that’s not the case for teens around the globe. Their time outside of school is spent doing more school work.
I’ve dropped my daughter off at 5:30 in the morning at the school only to pick her up at 7:00 PM after a variety of after school activities and then watched her stay up well past midnight to complete homework. Most nights in the last month I’ve maybe seen my daughter for about 5 minutes before she sat herself down at the kitchen table and eaten while she’s done hours worth of homework.
I’ve watched her breakdown and cry as she told me how much homework she had and how she had no idea how she was going to get it all done.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the amount of homework our teens have. My daughter is a junior in high school and she has 8 teachers who don’t talk to one another as they schedule homework and tests and that’s a lot of work to pile up one on top of another. That’s like having 8 different bosses who don’t communicate with each other at all piling on projects that all have the same due date despite the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day.
Add to this issue the fact that science tells us that teens need far more sleep and need to sleep in later and you have a real recipe for disaster.
The Teen has up until this past year been a prolific reader. The only book she has been able to read this year is 1984 by George Orwell, and she only made the time to read it because it was assigned, as were several projects and tests surrounding it.
I have seen a real push back against giving younger kids homework and allow them more time to engage in play and downtime, but I have not seen that same push back for our teens. At the same time, I see a lot of articles out there talking about the rising rates of stress, anxiety, addiction and suicide among our teens. And in our profession we talk a lot about the declining rates of teens attending library programs and reading for fun. I posit that there is a correlation between the amount of homework our teens are facing and this intense academic pressure and the mental health of our teens.
What I would like to suggest is this: If you are a teacher, please don’t assign any projects or homework over school breaks. Let kids genuinely have a break. Don’t assign tests on the Mondays after break either.
Keep in mind that your homework assignments don’t just affect the kids in your class, they impact families. I have many a friend who posted this past week on Facebook about how they had to modify or cancel plans because of the amount of homework their kids had.
Most importantly, remember that teens need down time too. They need a real break. Everyone needs a time and a space to decompress and enjoy family and friends, even our teens. Keeping teens motivated and helping them learn, grown and develop good work ethics doesn’t have to mean they have to work 24/7. One of the greatest things we can teach our kids is how to develop healthy lifestyles that include a work/life balance that allows them to thrive.
Winter break is coming up and I’m counting on you: please don’t assign homework over the break. Everyone deserve a break.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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