Seniors Obtain a Reduced Homework Load During October Weekends


Lily Harris

Senior Students Emilia Rose, Sumner Keogh, and Remy Rigby work on college applications during their free period.

Upper School Director Kristine Von Ogden, in agreement with academic department heads, announced on September 30 that teachers should limit their assigned homework loads for seniors during October.

The approach aims to reduce work-induced stress when possible. The new method may not be required, but the administration has encouraged teachers to reduce homework if they feel it to be appropriate and beneficial to their students.

Ms. Von Ogden said, “I think homework should always be meaningful, and not just busywork.” While she believes that students should learn how to balance their activities and readjust when needed, she also noted the senior students, particularly student government members, who spoke on behalf of the senior class to help relieve some of the stresses of applying to college.

Senior grade representative Will Benford wanted to put an end to senior sleepless nights. He forwarded his Homework Free Weekend Appeal essay to Ms. Von Ogden in an attempt to spark a decrease in homework volume. Will said in his essay, “It has come to my attention, and the attention of my fellow grade representatives, that our class is overwhelmed and stressed out about upcoming college deadlines.”

As part of his essay, Will quoted Latin’s community values. “We reflect and live with purpose, working toward goals that embody our genuine interests.” He articulated that seniors are unable to fulfill this purpose with jam-packed schedules of college supplements, sports, club meetings, and hours of homework.

Senior Lucy Norris said, “I come home from field hockey at 10:30 p.m. routinely. … I have six classes, three hours of practice, and four hours of homework, and anytime I’m not doing homework, I am working on my college applications.”

Schedules like Lucy’s are what inspired Will to reach out to the administration in the first place. “I didn’t realize how widespread the issue of stress and being overworked was,” he said.

And it’s not just current Latin students who note this pressure.

“When talking to parents and graduates,” Will said, “so many say that one of the biggest shortcomings of Latin is the workload and lack of cross-department collaboration.” He pointed to the fact that Latin students are intensely learning new material in one class and then given five-minute passing periods, unless they have a free block, to completely shift gears to the next topic. “There is absolutely no overlap. Teachers are just thinking about their subject.”

Upper School biology teacher Sarah Kutschke said, “I try to be cognizant of assigning work outside of class since I know it can become so overwhelming.” In general, the Science Department tends to assign light homework loads as they believe the work to be less thoughtfully done when rushed outside of class. Ms. Kutschke added, “I’m shocked this was the first time homework loads were brought up.”

“When I first came to Latin, I was paranoid about needing to assign homework, but now I don’t feel the need to,” Ms. Kutschke said.

Similarly, Will highlighted that he has found several of his teachers taking strides toward helping reduce stress for seniors. For example, Upper School English teacher Lang Kanai “has been open about prioritizing mental health and helping us out,” Will said. Other teachers, however, seem to ignore the issue, according to Will.

“So many teachers have not acknowledged the situation,” Will said. “I understand that teachers want to teach, but students aren’t bringing their best efforts, so classes aren’t being maximized, which makes an ineffective classroom space.”

Ms. Kutschke was surprised after hearing that some of her colleagues didn’t address the issue. “I would think teachers would have no problem backing off till November 1.” November 1 is the deadline for any early decision applications to colleges.

Alexandra Fields, Director of College Counseling, was also pleasantly surprised by the recent actions taken by administration and the department heads. “I was a little surprised by the email because I had never seen something so formal about seniors’ work,” she said. “It’s huge for the senior class.”

Additionally, she recognized the state of extreme stress that Latin students particularly are in.

“We’ve been talking a lot about senior wellness,” she added. Both the school and students recognize the toll overwhelming amounts of homework have on a student’s mental health and continue to work to improve student support through appeals like these.

While many do appreciate the strides taken to assist seniors in the college process, others are hoping for more improvement. Will said, “I didn’t think the response was adequate, it’s still a pressing issue, and there is still a lot to discuss.”