Time Devoted to Homework at Radnor? A simple question, or a major problem?

Emilija Sagaityte

Many years ago children had to make the tedious journey to their factories everyday and worked for hours and hours, only to come home exhausted, dirty, and with very little money, longing to be able to go to school. Thankfully, their wish was eventually granted, and children now have a chance to learn. However, despite this, there is still one thing that does not sit well with children – work – and there still seems to be way too much of it in school these days. Lately, homework seems to be more of a job and a chore than an activity. Thankfully, Radnor Township has now taken a step forward by installing a homework policy that states that homework shouldn’t be intended to punish kids, its goal should be to improve students’ knowledge on a topic, and it shouldn’t harm anyone’s health or interfere too much with the responsibilities that kids have outside of school. Only time will tell whether this policy will truly be effective, but the primary points that it addresses are very important and may decrease the amount of stress that students are faced with, and, hopefully, there will be additional regulations in the future if necessary that will help reduce the toll that homework currently takes on students.

Students:

At Radnor High School, the amount of homework that students get widely varies, but for the most part, students still tend to feel like they are getting too much of it. Of course, everything depends on the students and their schedules. The grades that seem to have it the easiest, at least at the beginning of the year, are the freshman and seniors. For some freshmen, the homework load may feel even lighter than it was in middle school. In addition, it seems as though seniors don’t get that much homework at the start of the school year, which is very beneficial considering that they need time to apply for colleges. Nonetheless, the seniors still find it stressful because of college applications.

It seems to get a little more difficult for sophomores though. Some students who don’t go down the AP path and have a free period during the day have commented that their homework only takes a few hours and they still have time for extracurricular activities, which makes it seem as though homework is not really an issue, but not so fast. Naturally, when students take more difficult courses, the amount of homework rises along with that, so when they start taking AP classes and filling up their eight credits, that amount of time they have to spend with their textbooks after school only increases. According to Mrs. O’Rourke, who teaches AP Biology, students who take this course need to have the time and be willing and able to complete the work, and the ability to do that also changes based on how old the ages of the students are. For example, a senior would be a more experienced student because he or she would have written more essays over the course of high school, whereas a sophomore would not have had that preparation. However, even with this in mind, it seems as though the amount of homework can increase by too much at times, piling students up with assignments. Homework for students who have a packed schedule might take four or more hours, and when you put hours spent studying into the equation, the result is late bedtimes, droopy eyes, and an excessive amount of stress. Not to mention, it seems to get even more difficult for juniors. Not only do they have to worry about studying for daily tests and completing the hours of homework they get, but they also need to prepare for their very important standardized tests, such as SATs and ACTs.

It is also important to look at colleges and how much homework they give. According to a student who has graduated Radnor and is now in college, although there is still written homework and studying in college, there is more responsibility put on students to do the work if they want to do well. Maybe it would be better if high school let students have more control over what they did for classes and would give them the ability to do the work that they think would help them learn so that they wouldn’t waste precious hours of their time on homework that doesn’t serve them much benefit.

Furthermore, a great deal of students’ afternoons are taken up by sports and similar activities, leaving even less time for homework. To look at a specific example, consider the vast amount of students who are in the band and who also play a sport, and on the days when practices for both overlap, some students don’t get home until very late at night, which means that they need to stay up past midnight at times to finish their homework. Consequently, those students may end up being more tired during school the next day and may not be able to retain what they learn in class, which is, after all, the primary purpose of school. Instead, if students got less homework, then they would not only listen more intently during school, but they would also be able to concentrate more and do better on their assignments. Not to mention, many teachers would probably prefer to teach a class of attentive students than talk to yawning faces with blank stares. However, students have to manage their time, as well. If they finish their homework very late at night because they decide to spend three hours of their afternoon watching their favorite shows, well then the homework isn’t entirely to blame. So, in order to get the best results, students may need to get less homework, but they also have to prioritize their assignments and manage their time accordingly.

Of course, no one is required to take the most rigorous classes, like AP courses, but many choose to, especially when that means that they’ll get the opportunity to earn college credit, and although everyone could just drop all of their other activities and spend all their time working on homework, it is encouraged that students get involved and stay active while also pushing their intellectual abilities by taking more difficult courses, and this makes it all the more difficult for students to manage their time in a way that doesn’t require them to be glued to books late into the night. Therefore, with child labor turning into child homework labor, it might be a wise idea to really start looking at and assessing this major issue and to try to find possible solutions that would make the connotation of “homework” a lot better than it is now.

Family and Home Life:

One of the major issues with having a lot of homework is the impact it has on students’ lives at home. Students often head to their books when they get home and spend the many remaining hours of their day doing homework. This greatly reduces the relationship between children and parents and can build rifts in families; they aren’t able to discuss their day together or spend time with each other. Basically, the desk becomes like a giant bubble, separating students from the world around them and the lives of their parents and siblings and making it feel like students are living their own, separate lives. The computers turn into their parents and their pencils and books become their closest brothers and sisters. When the amount of time that teenagers spend with these items becomes greater than the time they spend with the people in their home, it is important to not turn a blind eye and admit that homework has become a problem, and some teachers don’t.

Mr. Neary, an English teacher, thinks that high school should be wonderful and that students should have the ability to enjoy that time, rather than spending it all on homework. When his own children get assigned work, even if it’s minimal, he notices how much it can take away from, and it is more difficult for high school students who have even less hours in their day. As a result, he considers how much homework is essential and what skills could be addressed in class. He says that some homework, like reading a book, has to be done at home, so those types of assignments are necessary, but as a teacher, he tries to only assign the work that is actually necessary.

Teachers:

 The issue of too much homework doesn’t have just one side though. It is often associated with students, their views, and the toll that it takes on them, but not many people seem to flip the homework page and look on the other side – the teachers’ side. Every teacher is different and has their own view on how much work is acceptable and necessary, but it’s not like they all purposefully try to inflict hours of stressful homework on students. In fact, some teachers at Radnor High School try to do the exact opposite, like Mr. Neary, who does his best to only assign homework that must be done at home. On the other hand, there are some teachers that may seem to give a substantial amount of work, but that is often a result of the level of the course. For instance, Mrs. O’Rourke noted that since AP Biology is a college level course, it naturally requires independent reading and studying, and class time is devoted more to discussions. She also pointed out though that the actual written homework students have to hand in in AP biology usually isn’t greater than the amount assigned for a regular level course.

Is there anything that teachers could do though to alleviate the stress that students are faced with due to large amounts of assignments? That is difficult to say, considering that all classes have work that must be completed in order to stay on top of the material. Many students often wish that teachers would assign “less hours” of homework, but this isn’t very feasible because everyone does homework at their own paces. Also, the township did enforce a homework policy, but not everything can be controlled by words on paper, and the teachers themselves should consider ways to resolve the conflicts that often come stapled with assignments. Although there isn’t much that students can ask from teachers, who often are already doing the best they can to make sure that teenagers don’t get too much work, assigning less busy work is something that teachers could consider. Homework is usually necessary because it often helps students better master the material taught in class. Mrs. O’Rourke, who also teaches Advanced Biology, thinks that in regular courses, homework is meant to reinforce what is taught in class or to introduce students to new information before it is discussed at school. Thus, it is important to remember that homework can’t be significantly reduced because teachers do find a lot of it essential, even if it might seem like a waste of time to students with busy lives. However, with all the studying that high school students do, when it comes to homework that doesn’t require much thought, even if it does review what’s learned in class and is intended to reinforce the information, it may be a good idea to cut down on it because many students end up not trying on those types of assignments because they have other ways of mastering the material, causing homework to feel pointless.

Therefore, looking at Radnor, some classes seem to require a lot more homework than others, especially when they are honors or AP classes, some grades have it harder than others, and maybe not all the work that everyone gets is always necessary, but some of it certainly is in the eyes of teachers. It would be great if all the teachers could get together and plan out homework and tests perfectly so that no one would be loaded up on work, but this is unrealistic, so at the end of the day, all that we students can do is learn to make the best of it, and by managing our time wisely, it may be possible to not be so stressed out about it. Besides, chances are that all of those kids who spent so much of their time working in factories or mines in the past would have done anything to trade it all for an education, even if that meant having to spend just as much time on homework, and I guess that in some ways, we owe it to them to not complain about how much we get, even if it is way too much at times, and just get through it, looking forward to summer and knowing that one day, it will all (hopefully) pay off.

The RTSD Board of School Directors just recently approved a new homework policy. Check it out here.  School Board Policy About Homework