Give Students a Break

Let’s say, “So long to the days of meaningless assignments that keep us occupied during break.” Let’s say, “So long to the days of tedious assignments due the day we return from break.” Let’s say, “So long to the days of not having a break during ‘break’.”

There are days when I witness my fifth grade sister crying over the overwhelming load of homework she receives. Homework’s ability to cause such anguish and agony deter from its purpose of being positive reinforcement. A teacher who brings this damaging stress upon his or her students is only defeating this purpose.

That’s not to say that homework shouldn’t be assigned, but there should be constraints to make homework meaningful rather than uninteresting and uninspiring. Over a break from school, students should be afforded the opportunity to expand their horizons. They should be able to read things they never had the chance to read before and go places they have never had the chance to go before. These are experiences that homework inhibits students from having during their time off from school.

Fortunately, my school decided to afford students the opportunity to refresh and relax over our holiday break. For once, I was able to spend quality time with my family without having the burden of homework upon me. It was a true break.

Having pushed for this policy as my school’s Student Government President, I returned from break to have students surprisingly thanking me for advocating for a relaxed vacation homework policy. The people they really should have been thanking are their teachers and administrators who took the bold step of challenging the norm and altering their curriculum in order to do what they recognized to be in the students’ best interests.

Students returned to school relaxed and refreshed and ready to learn. They had the time to read things they had never read before and they had the time to go places they had never gone before. And above all, they spent quality time together with family. On a personal note, decades from now I will recall this time with family with a nostalgic sentiment. This time is precious and quality time together becomes a rarity as I grow older and everyone has more obligations and responsibilities.

This new policy was coincidentally, yet inadvertently continued a few weeks later. Following midterms, teachers took a similar approach to homework as they did over the holiday break. With my college applications and research papers out of the way, I was able to rekindle some great relationships that I had been distracted from because of school. I was also able to reignite my inquisitive and adventurous persona as I visited some of the world’s most renowned art museums and peeped through some of the nooks and crannies of The Big Apple.

As I described my three-day adventure to a friend, “I did things I would not have been able to do had I been burdened with school assignments.” The weekend was invaluable and one I would not have been able to have without the relaxed workload. While homework is supposed to help reinforce material learned in school, days without homework seem to help reinforce how much more there is to learn beyond the classroom. Unfortunately, that is not encouraged as a part of the curriculum.

Too often meeting the standards is prioritized over actual learning. But actual learning should always be prioritized over meeting the standards. And that’s what I did without homework.

If you are a parent or a student, make a pledge to advocate for this change in your community and explain to others why they should too. Work with your peers to devise a plan to ensure that this happens in your community. If you are a teacher or an administrator, make a pledge to better understand and incorporate into your curriculum the value of a true break for a young and developing mind – a young and developing student. Work with your colleagues to formulate a plan for next year’s curriculum that takes the value of a true break into account.

Let’s reimagine education and reinvigorate the curriculum. 

 

Zak Malamed

RTN Student Leadership Board Co-Leader