There is a common perception amongst students that their homework is excessive, consuming nearly all of their free time. But is this belief true? Who is really responsible for this mess: students or teachers?
After talking with students, administrators, and doing a little experimenting of my own, I've reached a conclusion: teachers are not to blame. Granted, there are a few teachers who assign too much work. However, the students themselves are mainly at fault for their lack of free time. Without being aware of it, students waste countless hours on the Internet, instant messaging, playing video games or watching one of the hundreds of television channels available 24/7.
How would I know? Because I am one of these students. As a student in the laptop program, in which middle and high school students use their laptops in class and at home, I checked my emails excessively, downloaded music, or instant messaged friends rather than doing my homework. Each night, I found myself complaining that I never seemed to have enough time; it took me three hours to trudge through my work.
"Lots of kids say they are doing the homework, but they are instant messaging, texting, or listening to music instead," says Ms. Ludlow, a sixth grade block teacher at Hart.
Then the thought occurred to me: what would happen if I stopped going on the Internet during the school week? On my first day unplugged from the Web, I finished my homework in a mere hour. I was converted.
Hart Middle School Principal Mr. Maher told me the school district's guideline is 20 minutes of homework per class.
Middle and high school students should expect to spend an average of 90-120 minutes total per day on homework for all classes, according to the district. To my surprise, once I freed myself of the Internet, I found out Mr. Maher was right.
However, most students remain blind to the truth. They falsely believe that homework is the real culprit for their lost time, rather than their own distractions or extracurricular activities.
Rachel, a Hart sixth-grader, says, "I have bassoon, ice skating, piano and soccer practice."
Her story is not unique. Another middle school student reports that in addition to her homework, she has soccer, dance and extra leadership activities.
The Hart staff receives many concerns from students who are overworked, but it's not entirely the school's fault. Students allow far too many distractions to steal away their precious free time, and parents share in the blame by pushing their children into too many extracurricular activities. The result: students feel overwhelmed.
My advice to parents: give your kids a break and let them be kids! And to students: turn off the TV; you've got homework to do.