During my four years at Palo Alto High School, I have found it common to find many of my peers awake at 1 a.m. willing to struggle through homework due the next morning with me. I have also found myself listening to my friends rant about their struggles juggling the stress of school and homework. From spending roughly 30 hours a week at school to the hours of sport practices to the numerous other commitments we all have, it often feels impossible to squeeze homework into our schedules while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
As an effort to learn more about student life and how it could be improved, a group of seven participants including both teachers and students attended a workshop at the Institute of Design at Stanford. As a result, Paly teachers Erin Angell, Eric Bloom, Alexander Davis and Debbie Whitson volunteered to try a new system which involves awarding students with a homework pass if they agree to spend lunch with them, talking about homework and how other issues at Paly can be improved.
To maximize the benefits for students, I believe that all classes, specifically math and science classes, should also adopt this system. Only one to two homework passes a semester could significantly lower stress. Having these passes would provide students with a break from homework every now and then, and act as a safety net when students completely forget about an assignment.
Yes, homework provides extra practice for students and allows them to pinpoint their weakness in each unit, but it has become more of a burden for students when compared to the benefits that it is intended to bring. Sometimes, a single homework pass in one class can allow more time to study for tests in other classes or just allow students to get more sleep. Other times, “life happens,” and having a homework pass could make all the difference. While these homework passes are obviously beneficial to students, they may also be able to help teachers. Most of the problems students have at Paly can be linked to a lack of communication between students and teachers. Extending this homework pass system to other classes would help fix this problem, as teachers would be able to hear firsthand from students about the struggles of being a student, and vice versa.
After trying out the new system with his classes, Bloom reflects on his experiences of providing homework passes.
“What I think one of the most valuable takeaways is that kids want to talk,” Bloom said. “In the proper setting, they’re really very fair, and honest, and sincere. Homework passes are a very easy thing to do. A lot of teachers could do it without giving up too much, and I think it’s symbolically a pretty powerful thing.”
This trial regarding homework passes may finally open up a window for teachers to understand and connect with their students, as well as lessen stress for students. Home work passes will also strengthen the relationship between teachers and students, a truly beneficial system for both parties. This change, however, will only occur if more teachers choose to adopt this system.