I look forward to summer for one reason: freedom. It's the only time I have that someone isn't dictating my every move, telling me what I should try to learn and sucking up my leisure time with how I should learn it.
My excitement for this summer was unrivaled. Thoughts of everything I could accomplish danced in my head until a comment last school year from my English teacher sent a bolt of lightning through my ears and caused a thundercloud so dark it has clouded my positive thoughts ever since.
My teacher informed us that each student in our school district was required to read one book over the summer from an approved reading list and be prepared for a test at the beginning of the school year. What!? No, no, no, no, no, no! My dreams of reading the Harry Potter series with my sister and all the lovely, not-approved books I wanted crashed into a brick wall and landed in a pile of unrecognizable trash.
Why can't they just let people who want to read, read what they would like to read for once? That's when I decided schools really need to put a limit on this thing. Homework has gotten way too out of hand. It eats up nine months of my life and now it's starting to chew holes into the rest of them.
As I've thought about my homework dilemma, I've learned about some school districts across the nation that have passed policies limiting homework. The Los Angeles Unified School District in California recently enacted a policy requiring that only 10 percent of a student's grade can be based on homework. The amount of homework isn't diminished, but the weight it plays on a student's grade is considerably smaller.
In New Jersey, the Galloway Township School District might limit homework in a different way. The amount of homework a student would have every day would be 10 minutes multiplied by the student's grade level, and no homework would be assigned on weekends. For example, a first-grader would have 10 minutes, a sixth-grader would have 60 minutes, and a high school senior would have two hours.
I've decided there are many worthwhile reasons why these homework-limiting ideas should be used more often. Limiting homework increases and prolongs the desire to learn, encourages more meaningful assignments, and enables students to participate in extracurricular activities and be involved in their community.
By limiting homework, students are more excited to learn and that desire actually lasts longer. Recently, I spent four days at an archaeology camp in Nine-Mile Canyon leaning how to use compasses, topographic maps and UTMs (a geographical coordinate system), and learning about geology and anthropology.
I was so intrigued about everything and hopping with excitement. Thinking about my experience, I realized how educational everything was and wondered why I enjoyed it so much while I had hated the previous school year. I concluded that all the homework and tests of school had been so overwhelming that I had lost all enjoyment and desire to learn. The few weeks of summer brought my excitement back and I was able to learn so much at this camp because of that. So if less homework is assigned, students will retain their excitement about learning and, consequently, learn more.
Having less homework will also increase the meaning of the assignments that are given. The homework given will be better quality and more likely to help students understand key concepts. Right now, assignments are handed out like candy on Halloween and few of them are productive. By decreasing the amount of homework, one can also decrease the amount of busy work. This allows us to stop beating around the bush and actually get some effective learning done.
The less homework students are given, the more they can take advantage of extracurricular activities and be involved in their community. Extracurricular activities and service in our cities and neighborhoods are good ways for students to learn new skills they would otherwise not develop. It allows the student to become well-rounded and achieve success in many different areas of life. Too much homework limits these opportunities because students have to spend this time on all their schoolwork instead.
If you want better results in the classroom, start with the homework. Feed it to the dog before you assign it.
Michelle Thurgood will be a senior at Syracuse High School. She enjoys gymnastics, laughing and spending time with family and friends. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.