Should Students Have Homework Over April Break?

As April Break nears, the omnipresent question yet again takes hold of every student’s brain for another round of back-and-forth debate and conversation: “Should teachers give homework over break, and if so, how much?” 

When I asked around, the first reaction of the majority of students was to respond with a quick and affirmative “no.” Because of course, what middle/high schooler wants to sit inside during their first week off of school in spring completing work, rather than taking advantage of their time off, enjoying the fresh air and the company of their family and friends? I think most would agree that the ideal situation would be to take that “no” and run with it, giving both teachers and students much-needed time off. But how realistic is that? Because of the pandemic this year, Montrose teachers have had less class time to cover the material they need to. April Break falls at the beginning of the end of the year, when the curriculum culminates, the end is in sight, and AP classes are gearing up for exams. It’s reasonable then, to say: “Ok, we can’t take an entire week off from school, but how much homework should teachers give?”

Teachers need to be mindful of the fact that,while students need to complete work, it is equally important for them to take a break and recuperate from long weeks at school. Colleen Casey ‘22 said: “I would prefer to have no work, but if teachers felt like they needed to I would recommend just the equivalent of one night’s work. I wouldn’t suggest any big projects because that takes too much time away from our break.” She went further to say that, when teachers assign too much work over break, she feels like she benefits less from it because she rushes in order to get it done so that she can enjoy time off. Others reiterated that they thought a reasonable workload for each class would be the same amount of work teachers would assign for one night. However, if all teachers assign a night’s worth of homework, the work can pile up. There’s also a case to be made to refrain from work and allow students a deep rest and a more energetic return to their studies following break.

On the other hand, AP classes presented another debate for the answer to the question. Many high schoolers conceded that, while no homework would be ideal, they resigned themselves to a higher workload when they enrolled in AP classes. But, again, the work shouldn’t be so excessive that student’s feel like their break is overflowing with assignments. Grace Marino ‘22 said: “It’s tricky to figure out what to do with AP classes because I know they have to get a set amount of material covered, but girls with one or multiple APs need a mental break too. So maybe if they offered review, or just a video to watch, or take notes on that would be best.” I think that if AP teachers wanted to assign something big, such as completing a chapter in the textbook or taking a full AP practice test, they should give students a wider breadth of time to complete them. For example, Mrs. Whitlock is giving her AP Lang students a copy of a full AP Exam on April 6, not expecting it back until the first class after April Break. The AP Lang students are now at liberty to manage their own time and decide whether they want to take the test before break or during it. This is ideal because students are still benefiting from the work, but if they have plans over April Break it’s not taking away from their free time. This solution is applicable to other classes besides APs as well. 

This question of homework over April Break is not exclusively a high school phenomenon. Middle schoolers, too, have strong opinions about homework over April Break. Gabby Hasenjaeger ‘27 said that having homework over breaks makes her inclined to put it off until the last few days of break, and then she gets tired again before school even starts. As a proposed solution she said: “Little to no homework, but if you wanted some extra credit, or needed someone to explain it then that should be available.” 

One of the main threads I saw in my conversations with people about homework over April Break is that they didn’t want to be overburdened with so much work that it took away from their time off. Breaks from school are designed so students can step away from stress, relax, and recover from potential burnout they may be feeling. Cecilia Ashenuga ‘24 said: “I think it’s important for teachers and faculty to communicate what each are giving their students for break because, when you have six or seven classes, the work can pile up really fast… So from a teacher’s perspective, two to three hours of work might not seem like a lot, but if all your classes assign that much then your break won’t be much of a break at all.”

What I’ve concluded is that teachers need to be mindful of students’ time off, and students need to be mindful of their teachers’ efforts to help them learn and complete all necessary material. There is no one and done answer to this question (no matter how appealing that “no” may sound). Both teachers and students want to relax over April Break, and in order to do so, work must be balanced with leisure. Communication between teachers and students must take place so that everyone is on the same page about the pros and cons of homework, and how to get the most out of April Break, in regards to both academics and relaxation. 

Catherine Olohan ‘22, Copy Editor 

22colohan@montroseschool.org