COMMUNITY: “A focused mind saves time”

 
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Photo by Hannah Phillips.

In the latest RedEye Community installment, Kaelyn Harris (10, J&C) urges students to open their minds to completing homework over school breaks.

Every break, a topic buzzes through students’ conversations: the inevitable homework they’ll be getting. Accompanied by complaints and noncommittal shrugs, homework is often a source of ire among students. However, students should be more accepting of the work they are given over break, for it does serve a purpose. It keeps students’ minds fresh while they are away from school and saves time that would be wasted reviewing upon coming back.

We’ve all felt the after-break feeling that accompanies classes. We end up slogging through review material, trying to remember and stuff the information back into our brains. The struggle, as we say, is real. It’s like a caffeine crash: we end up attempting to stay awake after an energy high but only feel ourselves falling shorter and shorter. The best way to avoid this feeling isn’t to constantly guzzle coffee and avoid the problem; by taking homework in measured doses, we can remain up to date coming back from a break.

“I lose a week or a week and a half. And that’s just wasted time,” said James Garrett, an AP World and AP European History teacher. Research backs up Garrett’s claim. According to a study by Jianzhong Xu, Ed.D  and Ruiping Yuan, a professor at Mississippi State University,  published in the School Community Journal in 2003, students found that homework helped them learn material, review it, and retain information.

However, both students and teachers agree that a break is a vacation and should be used as such. It’s a time to relax and refresh before diving back into busy school life.

“If you’re busy over break, on vacation or something, you’re like, ‘Oh crap, I have a bunch of homework to do’ and it can cause a lot of stress and worry right before school starts,” said Eric Vasquez, a junior in HSU. During that time, homework shouldn’t be assigned in back-breaking amounts.

“For a short break, I’d say more than fifteen minutes a day is pretty unreasonable,” said Bailey Stuber, a sophomore in J&C. Lightening the homework load provides a much-needed rest period while still reinforcing what students learned before school let out for a while. Instead of spending time reviewing, students and teachers can move on to new material.

“If teachers want to increase kids’ motivation to do homework, they should make sure the homework really matters, tell students exactly why, and follow up on it reliably,” wrote Kathleen Cushman in her book, “Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from High School Students.” If homework is lighter, more fun and interesting, then I’m willing to bet we’d get a lot more done over break. It would be like nothing at all and yet, still keep our minds fresh.

“If they’re writing papers, then I come back to a big stack of papers and that’s not really making my life better, but what it’s doing is making the students’ educational enrichment better,” said Raymond Krause, an AP Psychology and U.S. History teacher.

Vacations provide more time for us to work at our own pace, rather than our school’s, and ultimately be able to retain information and refresh our minds. With a lightened homework load, it wouldn’t be too difficult to spend a few minutes keeping ourselves up-to-date.

During the remainder of this break, I encourage my fellow students to consider the reasons behind the homework they may have received. We won’t feel as lost coming back or have to sit through mindless reviewing for an entire class period. If you work on your homework a little bit each day, you can still enjoy break and have a nice rest period.

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James Miller is RedEye’s faculty adviser. This is Mr. Miller’s fifth year as staff adviser, 11th year at Manual, and 14th year as a JCPS teacher. In a previous life, he worked at WHAS-11 and the Courier-Journal.