Teachers vs. Students: Workload
October 2, 2018
High school students, in general, are getting more and more flustered with the amount of work they have.
After reaching home in the late afternoon from an extracurricular activity, the average high school student spends the next 2-3 hours working on homework, not even bothering to eat. When he finally finishes after hours of unending work, he may grab a quick snack instead of an actual meal to save time. Then, he sits down to study for the plethora of tests he has that week while his family sits outside, enjoying time together. After finishing all the work at midnight, the teenager dives under the covers, preparing to repeat the exhausting cycle again tomorrow.
In a week, students may have two tests, a presentation, three quizzes, a poster, and a packet due, plus 25 minutes of regular homework for all seven of their classes. Looking at this schedule, it isn’t much of a surprise that a growing number of high school students are developing chronic stress. Many students are overwhelmed from all their work, and some give up and even resort to cheating instead of tackling the assignments. This giant amount of assignments can even cause students to miss out on family time and meals, negatively impacting their health. According to this Oxford Learning article, upcoming tests, too much homework, and heavy workloads are the top three leading causes of student stress. After examining the two different perspectives on this problem, South Forsyth High school may be able to look at viable solutions.
The Teachers’ Take
Teachers at South Forsyth seem to think the major problem lies with students’ schedules.
“Students today have more extracurriculars, A.P. Classes, and competition,” says Ms. Pepper, an Honors Literature and Composition teacher at SFHS. “I’ve never had that many when I was in high school.”
Mrs. Pepper also mentions that the problem lies with students having too much on their plate, especially when it comes to school. While some of the problem is with the amount of work teachers give, a lot of it is students putting pressure on themselves, she explains.
Mr. Weber, an A.P. Human Geography teacher, argues that the root cause is students’ procrastination. The workload isn’t supposed to take that long when spaced out, however, Mr. Weber explains that it can be overwhelming when left to the last minute.
“[The reason so many students are overwhelmed is] Procrastination and too many activities every night that last until 8/9, and then they [students] go home and have to deal with school work,” he says.
The teachers agree that the solution is work from both the school’s and students’ ends. Ms. Pepper believes the school is good at balancing tests, however, teachers need to have meaningful formatives leading up to a summative. For her, busywork crosses the line between students being overwhelmed and challenged. Mr. Weber suggests that the solution is that students learn to manage time better, find ways to prevent procrastination, and balance extracurriculars with other activities.
“Teachers do an amazing job at balancing out work, but need to help the students in balancing their time better,” Mr. Weber concludes.
The Students’ Side
In general, the students at South Forsyth feel overwhelmed with the amount of work they receive from school. Brantley Jenkins, a freshman, says that he regularly gets overwhelmed with the work he has.
“There’s WAY too much than we [students] have time to do,” he complains. “Sometimes we’ll have an 18-page packet assigned as well homework every single day, and it’s just too much.”
Shravya Kanchanapally, a junior, agrees. Both Brantley and Shravya have reported having at least one week with a summative every single day. The latter even mentioned having to quit many of her extracurricular activities in order to cope with the amount of schoolwork she had. It is often said by students that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done while also taking a breather.
“They [teachers] should work together to give assessments on different days rather than have all teachers of every subject give tests on the same day,” Shravya claims.
Students think the solution is more teacher-student understanding. Brantley suggests that teachers take into account the amount of work their students already have before adding more. Shravya thinks switching up assessment dates will better balance them out.
Although there isn’t one obvious solution to this problem, teacher-student collaboration can help bring back balance to students lives. Many schools across the globe are reducing the amount of homework students have or staggering their test dates in order to reduce student workload. Top New York City high schools have attempted to bring back balance by offering extra help for struggling students instead of adding more homework to their schedules. They’re changing test dates and moving them so they aren’t clustered. Ridgewood High School in New Jersey and Hillsdale High in Illinois both reduced student workload during vacations. Ridgewood banned homework over winter break and the Hillside offered juniors a “work-free weekend” in order to relieve some of their stress. In addition, schools are reducing testing in order to help students. High schools in Tennessee have taken out two very large, previously required, tests from their curriculum. In addition to large, state-wide tests, teachers in their individual classrooms can work with students to reduce individual tests.
South Forsyth could even look at international school systems for inspiration. Finland, one of the leading educational systems in the world, has nearly no homework for elementary-schoolers and only around 30 minutes per night for high schoolers. In addition, this infographic suggests that only one standardized test is required in that country, at the age of 16. While we cannot perfectly mimic their educational system, we can take some of their ideas and implement them at South Forsyth, reducing overall stress.
However, this effort isn’t complete with just the school’s effort. Students should also find ways to plan their schedules better in an effort to avoid procrastination and balance out long-term homework. If schools reduce workload while students continue to procrastinate, the problem will not be fixed. A combination of better time management skills, as well as a workload reduction, may provide the best solution to this problem. Students should also talk with teachers about how they can best manage their time for their classes so they don’t fall behind. The solution to this problem doesn’t have one specific answer: it can only be solved if teachers and students work together via open dialogue and adaptability towards each other’s situations.
The next day at school, the student works up the nerve to ask her teacher to extend the deadline for the project. She explains that she is overwhelmed, sleep deprived, and exhausted. After a lot of back-and-forths, the teacher agrees to move the due date for the class. The student grins. After returning home, she joins her family on the porch rather than spending hours alone and stressed in her bedroom.