Teachers, students discuss how homework impacts stress

Textbooks, notes, highlighters and a computer clutter the desk. The clock reaches the early hours of a new day as the student is entranced by the incessant clicking of the keyboard; tired, irritable and stressed — a student pushes through yet another wave of exhaustion. After sitting through eight hours of school during the day, homework consumes students’ evenings.  

According to the Los Angeles Times students in America are faced with about three and a half hours of homework per night on average; however, Hebron students have reported having anywhere from two to six hours. While homework is one of the main stressors in students’ lives, some teachers, such as pre-calculus teacher Catherine Meldrum believe that homework is essential to understanding the material being taught.

“Homework is given for practice,” Meldrum said. “I use this analogy a lot – if you were going to compete in a sport or a band competition, you don’t just show up. You have to practice every day.”

For students involved in extracurricular activities such as clubs or jobs, homework can appear as a burden rather than an opportunity for growth in learning. For senior Krish Patel, who is involved in various organizations including debate, National Honors Society, Science National Honors Society, DECA, Key Club, Technology Student Association and HOSA: future health professionals, studying and completing homework can be challenging while taking two AP classes and balancing a multitude of clubs. 

“Right now my schedule is pretty light: I just have AP English and AP Art History this semester,” Patel said. “When you’re doing a lot of extracurricular activities, sometimes you can’t go home until late and then you have a bunch of homework to do so you either don’t do it or you stay up to finish it and go to sleep late, which hurts your sleep schedule.”

According to Stanford researchers, many students struggle to find balance between homework, extracurricular activities and social time – it was even recorded that some students felt forced to choose homework over honing other skills or hobbies they enjoy. AP English III teacher Blake Bogus said he understands that extracurriculars are a prominent part of students’ lives, and takes that into consideration when assigning homework. 

“Being new to high school, I understand that extracurriculars really aren’t extra, they are a huge part of students’ lives and what coaches — academic or athletic — expect is quite a bit,” Bogus said. “So, I think you do have to consider that. Some students also work a job to try and make money which is a great skill to have, so I try and consider all of that when I decide how much more practice we need on a skill.” 

A big contributor to school-related stress can be attributed to students tendencies to procrastinate, and a big factor of procrastination is technology. The internet has allowed students to access their homework virtually anywhere. AP Government and AP U.S. history teacher Travis Fitzgerald sees both sides. He uses internet access to generate more abstract assignments. 

“As long as there’s high school students, there’s procrastination,” Fitzgerald said. “The internet has rendered homework meaningless, because every teacher has their assignment online and I see kids all the time copying. It’s a lot easier to just tell kids, ‘hey go read this,’ and then talk about it. I also try to assign different things besides textbooks, like podcasts — stuff that might generate some interest.”

Another factor that impacts the amount of homework assigned is the accelerated block schedule, or having four classes per semester for an hour and a half each. According to the American Association of School Administrators, research shows improvements in student’s grades and the overall number of students on honor roll increases with the accelerated block schedule — greater than A/B or eight period day schedules. 

The accelerated block schedule because it allows them to do more work in class, sometimes eliminating a large portion of their homework, and it makes absorbing information much easier for students. Junior Jonathan Herkimer, who is currently taking AP Psychology and PreAP calculus, as well as being a student council officer and an Earth club member, said the schedule has benefits. 

“I prefer the accelerated block schedule,” Herkimer said. “While having eight classes at a time sounds more stressful, the accelerated block allows me to fully understand my four classes rather than semi-understanding eight classes.”

While teachers and students have mixed feelings about homework, both parties can agree that the ultimate goal is to prepare students for college courses they might take in the future. Teachers like Bogus and Meldrum believe the level of difficulty in their class and the amount of work they assign should reflect that of a college class. 

“I know from my experience from college, a lot of times I was given an assignment but they never collected it – it was for you to know that these are the things they suggest to practice and also to learn the material – not just get ready for the test,” Meldrum said. “It’s important to practice it and understand it on your own in order to be successful.”