It’s mid-July, the sun relentlessly shines down without a cloud in the sky. Going outside is akin to entering a furnace; the heat is visibly radiating up from black asphalt, plants desperately gasp for water. On a day like this one can only harbor thoughts of going to the pool or the river in search of respite from the heat. However, this is not the case. Instead of basking in the heat by the water, many a teenager finds himself entrapped in the freezer-like temperatures of air-conditioning, slaving away at a desk, chained by a burden. What burden could keep a teen from enjoying the one thing that motivates him through the school year? Two words: summer homework.
Every year, as Upper School students pack their bags for summer vacation, teachers bestow a parting gift upon them to ensure that school will follow the students through their adventures. This is a common tradition among schools, but what is not constant is the amount of summer work a student receives. At Collegiate, there is a wide range of amounts of summer work, Mary Ottley (‘17) said “I did not have too much summer work; I had a little bit of history and a little bit of English, and I thought that it was the perfect amount just to get me ready, but I would not have wanted any more”. Alex Parham (‘16) also said “I had a really good summer, I did absolutely nothing except for summer reading; my summer was great”. On the other hand, Annie Bird (‘16) said “I feel like I had more work than the past years because this year I had Physics, Calculus, English, Spanish, and Dance. I am a huge procrastinator, so I didn’t sleep the night before school started.” Annie is in three AP classes that gave her fair amounts of work, along with an English elective and Dance. Similarly, Anne Miller (‘16) “had a ton of summer work, in my AP classes specifically: AP French, Calculus, Bio, and English.” One definite trend in summer work levels is the elevated level of work given by AP classes.
A Senior Sampler: Helen Roddey’s (’16) Summer Work
- AP French: Read book and answer questions, monthly work deadlines – went to school in France for a month.
- English: two books
- AP Biology: 100+ Review Questions and mini-Essay
But there is hope. The assignment of summer work is usually viewed as a battle between two opposing forces: students versus teachers. However, in recent interviews, many teachers such as Mr. David Bannard (Upper School chair of the math department) and Ms. Karen Albright (Upper School math teacher) cited summer work as an issue that, at least, the math department is intent on addressing in upcoming meetings. Ms. Albright said that the reasoning behind AP AB Calculus’ assignment of a summer packet was “We have a lot of material to get to and want ample time in the spring…” and the work’s goal is to get students “back where [students] need to be with those same skills when they left in June”. Ms. Albright said that this summer packet for AP AB Calculus is the only summer work she assigns throughout the various levels of math she teaches. In regards to the amount of summer work, Ms. Albright said, “I really haven’t heard that much about it until this year … and I was a little surprised”. So is the amount of summer work given rising? Mr. Bannard cited the new schedule as a driving force behind this potentially elevated levels of summer work. He says that with five instead of seven classes a day, teachers meet with their students less often. This disrupts teacher’s old pre-eight day schedule syllabi, and in an attempt to accommodate this disruption, teachers look to the summer to fill any gaps. Both Mr. Bannard and Ms. Albright stated that summer work would be a primary topic of discussion at the next math department meeting.
As a student, my summer took a blow from my large amounts of summer work. Five out of the six classes I enrolled in required work to be turned in on the first day of class. Personally, I am not opposed to classes assigning summer work, especially in cumulative courses such as Math and Language. I am, however, opposed to superfluous amounts of burdensome work that is not helpful to the student or is just excessive. Starting in mid-July, I devoted two or more hours a day, five days a week, to completing my various assignments, and I still had to pull several long work hauls well over five hours towards the end of the summer. It was during this time that I began to question how much this summer work was actually helping. While I agree with the idea of summer work, I do not agree with the degree to which summer work was assigned. Summer work exists on a spectrum from zero to an excessive amount, and somewhere between the two exists a happy medium that needs to be established. This amount of summer work would help students review previous concepts and prepare for the upcoming year without being overwhelming and excessive.
My Summer Work
- English: Read two books
- History: Visit two historical sites, write a paper on each. Watch two hours of a Ken Burns documentary and write a paper.
- AP Calculus: Calculus Review Packet
- French: Three Packets (one for each month) of literature exercises
- AP Biology: 100+ Review Questions and mini-Essay
This dilemma is not just a Collegiate problem. The New York Times hosted a debate on the paramount question of how to address the summer work issue. This debate examines a wide range of opinions, from abolishing summer work to increasing summer work, and no clear conclusion is drawn. Hopefully, upcoming department meetings at Collegiate will come to a different conclusion.
Collegiate students: How do you feel about your summer work? Did you have too much? Did you feel it was purposeful? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.