In eighth grade, I stayed up until almost 1 a.m. for three days straight. I had an English project assigned and due that week. There was research to be done and a poster to be made, all the while trying to create art. This was the most important project at the time because it would impact my final grade before the grade book closed. I was sleep-deprived and fell asleep in class for the entirety of those three days.
Similarly, UPA sophomore Susannah Jakkula can recall the time she and a group of friends stayed awake till 3 a.m., on a Hangouts call, to work on a Spanish project.
UPA students might find this experience similar to their own. However, that is something UPA teachers have been attempting to fix. UPA is a hyper-competitive school where a higher proportion of students than at a public school want to get into a top university. Top students are always pushing themselves to do more and to be better. On top of all the pressure to have after school classes, sports and activities, students have to deal with homework.
Science teacher Loren Schwinge, along with other teachers, attend monthly conferences regarding improvements to their teaching. English teacher and Professional Development (P.D.) Coordinator Kristin Moore is responsible for coming up with the agenda of each meeting. This includes topics of discussion, reading articles or books and debates about whether certain topics are believed to be good or bad.
“We’ve been discussing the [ethics] and the fairness of homework this year,” Schwinge said. “UPA, for a while, was known heavily for having a lot of homework.”
P.D. meetings are also held to help analyze trends. Teachers bring in data points and evidence from their teachings and surveys so they can understand how to better approach their classes.
“I am very passionate about never standing still as a teacher,” Moore said, “and even if you feel like you’re really successful as a teacher there are always ways to improve and there’s always reflection that should be done in order to be the best support for your students that you can be.”
But teachers disagree on how much homework actually supports their students. Some teachers are more lenient on Fridays because of the weekend, while others give more homework because of the additional time to complete it. This time can be used to relax and take a break, but students have less time to do that with more homework.
“Friday is a wild card,” Jakkula said.
Fridays are the closing of a long week at school, and most students would like free time to be with their friends and relax. But busy schedules can disrupt those plans.
A regulation written by the UPA Administration, Administration Regulation 25, gives teachers a recommendation of the amount of homework they should give. One recommendation is that homework assigned over the weekend should not be due on Monday.
However, some teachers assign large, time-consuming lessons and assignments on Friday so more work and learning can get done that coming Monday or Tuesday.
“Teachers are always really excited about their subject and about their curriculum so they want to impart that excitement to students and sometimes that can take the form of trying to really teach a lot,” Moore said.
“We make sure that we’re not eating into all of your time,” Schwinge said. “We need to make sure that you’re having time to actually be a kid; not just only be at school, but also binge watch YouTube if you want to. Do other things like be annoying on TikTok, do kid-like things because you have your whole life to be an adult. You only get a short time to be a kid.”