September 22, 2020

OPINION: Vacation – a myth or a reality?

Just days before vacation, we’ve all heard some teachers say the familiar phrase, “Now, I’m not officially assigning homework over break, but this project/reading/assignment is going to be due the day after we come back, and I recommend you don’t leave it for the last minute.” And let’s face it: most of us will complete the whole thing over vacation, knowing that there’ll be piles of work on top of this assignment that are just waiting for us the day we come back from break. Despite the no-homework-over-vacation policy, is there ever a time during the school year when students are completely free of work? I think not.

Merriam-Webster defines vacation as “the time of respite from something.” Respite – meaning a short period of time when you can stop doing something difficult or unpleasant. (Homework was a little unpleasant, the last time I checked.) The need for a no-homework policy over vacation shows that before this statement was enforced, perhaps the term “vacation” wasn’t properly understood. It meant ‘no school,’ but it didn’t mean ‘no work.’ Students were assigned books to read over break, projects to complete, and homework assignments to finish up. Although most teachers currently follow this policy by refraining from officially assigning work, some merely “unofficially” recommend completing an assignment or project. It’s really just the same thing. Work is work, unofficial or not.

Doing work over break in its entirety isn’t completely awful; it also depends on the amount of work. Reading a chapter or two for English? Not so horrible – that can be done on an airplane. Creating a poster on a historical figure after reading three chapters on him? Unless the flight attendants don’t mind my lugging a huge poster-board, pack of markers, ruler, and history textbook through the cramped aisles of the plane, this assignment might be a tad difficult given my vacation circumstances. When offered the choice of splitting my time between lying on the beach and creating a poster, of course I would take the former. What do I look like, some sort of studious, nerdy girl?

And then there’re the seniors, who’ve just spent their winter break writing college applications. Yes, it is our future and it probably doesn’t matter to teachers whether we turn our apps in or not, but to us, completing our applications feels like homework. Writing essays, filling out forms, reflecting … it sucks up our creative juices and energy. And then to find out there’s an unofficial assignment to be completed after submitting all the applications. Sounds a bit torturous, doesn’t it?

YES. It does.

Let’s not forget about the other side to homework assignments – grading. Some teachers have to correct and grade the different projects they’ve assigned over break. We like to think that the extra time over break allows students a chance to thoroughly complete the assignment, but let’s face the reality: most leave it to the last minute. (I personally have never heard anyone say, “I revised my English essay seven times over break – once each day!”) The product will most likely be less-than-perfect, thrown together hastily at the last minute. In the end, the assignment has the potential to waste both the students’ and teachers’ time, both of whom could have been enjoying a well-deserved night of Netflix binge-watching with friends and family.

Everyone needs time to de-stress and relax. Teenagers need a break to replenish their mental sanity and make up for sleep deprivation. Teachers, who work as hard if not harder than students, also need a break from work. Why not put a hold on homework and let both sides enjoy some much-needed relaxation time without the thought of another assignment hovering over their heads?

(Noor Pirani ’15, Editor-in-Chief)

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