How much homework is too much homework?

Homework at RV through the eyes of students (and the people who assign it)

Carlo Ciliberti, Student Life Writer

Whether in elementary, middle school and especially in high school, hearing a teacher begin one of their last phrases for the day with the words: Your homework tonight will be… brings trauma to the minds of students globally. Homework, a big part of nearly any student’s day, has to be done effectively, in order to leave time for extracurricular activities, hobbies, and students’ daily lives. 

Students at RV all have different experiences when it comes to the topic of homework. Most would agree that homework is a stressful and time-consuming part of their day. Although the school runs on block scheduling where each day is filled with only five 72-minute classes, students still have unfavorable opinions of homework.

For junior Brianna Mascali, who is currently enrolled in Trigonometry, Honors English and AP US History, homework is a large and time-consuming part of her day.

“On a nightly basis in Trigonometry, I usually get about 30 to 50 minutes of math problems just reviewing what we were doing in class,” she said. “I will normally do a little bit of extra practice for formatives, which are given almost daily. On top of that, we normally are asked to read three to four chapters of a book in English, as well as annotating articles that take about thirty minutes to complete. History provides longer, less frequent assignments, usually an hour in length. Although it’s fair to say I get about two hours of homework each night, I feel like taking honors classes has a big effect on that.”

Junior English Honors teacher Sarah Sherman, who has been teaching at RV for nearly all of her career, agreed with all of the points provided by her student. Communication issues between teachers in different academic areas also seemed to be the root of the excess amount of homework given nightly. 

“A lot of the kids in my honors classes take a lot of AP [Advanced Placement] and Honors classes,” Sherman explained. “I need to do a much better job of coordinating with teachers from other departments, especially with the history department, which is probably the worst when it comes to our communication. They assign a lot of reading too. When assigning homework, I try to take into consideration other classes, but I guess I’m more concerned with activities rather than other assignments.”

Sherman’s explanation on the need to enhance the communication between teachers in different departments surely could aid in a more effective and efficient assignment of homework with students, but Sherman’s biggest concern lies in block scheduling. 

“One thing that would definitely make me decrease the amount of work I give would be if we had year-long classes,” Sherman said. “Since we have semester-long classes, I’m constantly squeezing things in. My students would definitely have less homework a night if we went to year-long classes.”

It seems as if the workload and amount of homework only continue to increase exponentially after junior year in the Honors program, according to an interview with Mrs. Charlotte Chait, the senior Accelerated English and AP Literature teacher.

“I give homework in a different way,” said Chait. “I usually assign something and give due dates, so it’s more long-term. There’s always something to do,” Chait explained, with emphasis. “But, it’s so rare that I say ‘take this and do it tonight, and bring it back tomorrow.’ That usually only happens if I have a small writing assignment and I run out of time.”

Chait, who had been a teacher at RV since before the school changed from period scheduling to block scheduling, did not equate the amount of homework she assigned with the means of scheduling, as did Sherman. When asked if she would consider decreasing the amount of homework given, Chait did not seem keen on the idea, because of the responsibilities teenagers are going to need to carry into adulthood.

“There’s a great deal that my seniors have to do inside and outside of school. Time management is so key,” Chait said. “I think this is a good learning experience because it’s only going to get worse in college.”

Freshman Anastasia “Annie” Morris, who previously experienced most of her seventh and eighth-grade years in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, noticed a decrease in homework as a result. Her opinions on homework seemed largely the opposite to that of the others, likely because she is yet to partake in upperclassmen studies.

“Some of my classes do give more homework than others, but that doesn’t mean that classes give me too much homework,” Morris said. “The amount of homework I receive is actually very reasonable. If people think a class is giving them a lot of work, they are probably falling behind.”

Mr. Tony Pietrofitta, teacher of AP Government and Politics and Law-Society-and-Politics, teaches mostly upperclassmen students and ideals similar to that of Morris’s. Pietrofitta is known for believing that having homework on the weekends is “un-American.”

“My wife worked for several companies that were based out of Europe and they were very, very big on work-life balance. What makes better employees is being able to separate work from pleasure. They forced my wife to take vacations,” said Pietrofitta. “I kind of brought that [mentality] here, especially given the events of the past year. The weekends are for spending time with your families, doing the hobbies, or whatever it is, that you enjoy, and then Monday through Friday, we work hard.”

When asked if other teachers should adopt his ways of giving homework, Pietrofitta felt it was necessary to give each teacher their own choice.

“That’s their choice,” Pietrofitta said. “I’m not going to tell other teachers how to do their job, but I would definitely hope that school-wide, at the very minimum, homework is not assigned on long holidays, especially if people are traveling.”