Students are finding themselves with large amounts of homework, projects, and tests in the weeks leading up to the break, more so than a normal school week.
According to Jones’ policy, teachers cannot assign homework immediately before or during winter break, and work cannot be due the first day back after break. But teachers have given students more work in the last few days before break, hoping to negate the lost teaching time over winter break.
“There’s definitely been a very sharp increase in the work that we’ve been given,” said Izzy Rettke ‘21. “This just has kids stressed for the weeks in between Thanksgiving and the winter holidays because of the multitude of tests and projects.”
Rettke also observed the negative impact on students’ mental state in this period of time due to the increased quantity of work.
“My friends and I have not been in a great place due to all the work that’s been thrown at me,” Rettke said. “I don’t really know how to manage those things because there’s so much going on. That amount of stress shouldn’t be happening.”
Sydney McLennan ‘21 noted that she has been doing homework without a major break from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. because of the workload, limiting her time for herself.
“I eat dinner while I do homework,” said McLennan “When I have dinner, I don’t want to stop doing my homework.”
McLennan does not take any AP classes this year. However, the stress from the amount of work received is comparable to finals for McLennan.
“I think the stress of [work before winter break] is actually worse than finals,” said McLennan. “Because with finals, it’s material that you have already reviewed, or have done. You just need to review [past work].”
But not everyone is feeling the heat. Alex Munir ‘19 notes that while the workload may have been difficult as a freshman and sophomore, it is easier to handle as an upperclassman.
“I feel as though it’s easier the [older] you are in high school,” said Munir. “I think [the workload is] relatively okay. Any work that’s assigned before break, besides projects, is relatively doable.”
Social Studies teacher Jennifer Harned believes that there are two sides to the problem, and teachers often have to work just as hard before and during winter break.
“I think the problem is that we can’t seem to have things both ways and that we don’t want to have homework over the holiday,” said Harned. “That leads to teachers seeing a clear-cut break that is nerve-wracking because we don’t want our students forgetting everything they’ve learned.”
Harned also understands that there is an intrinsic expectation for teachers to take winter break as an opportunity to catch up on work, despite the policy of no homework for students.
“The no-homework rule is not really what’s expected of teachers, because we see it as an opportunity to grade,” Harned said. “Nobody says that we have to work over break, but it’s a good time to slow down and focus.”
In addition to the academic challenge, increased homework and stress has also been socially difficult for some students.
“Everyone wants to hang out with their friends because this is the last week you’ll see them,” said Bela Raymundo ’21. “It puts more pressure [on myself] because everyone is hanging out [with their friends] and you have to stay home to do an essay and study for tests. When you do go out with your friends, you now have more stress because you didn’t do the stuff you needed to do.”
Social Studies teacher Daniel Kovacs thinks that a possible solution to the problem on both side would be an earlier end to the semester, where work would be more efficiently spaced out, and students would be able to relax over the winter break.
“I wish that that the semester would end before break,” said Kovacs. “Then the policy of no homework over break would make sense, because you would ideally start new at the beginning of the new year. But here we don’t have that, so naturally we have a problem.”
Jessica Horwitch ‘20 suggests that a new policy to let students know about the work they must complete before break would be beneficial.
“I think there should be some policies to account for this, to let students know a certain amount of time before if they have a project,” said Horwitch. “The no homework policy over break helps students relax, but the work before can be stressful.”
Jones’ counselor Michelle Goins has noticed the amount of work being assigned and noted that it is not merely linked to Jones but prevalent at other CPS schools as well.
“At previous schools I was at, it seems teachers are giving out more work at this time of year,” said Goins. “It’s a stressful time of year for many people.”
Several students have seen Goins regarding anxiety this week, so she has provided self-care tips to her students.
“Be sure that you are reaching out for support, [like] talking to your counselor or teacher to see what you can do,” said Goins. “Also, make sure you are taking care of yourself [through] self-care practices, whether it is going for a run, reading, or journaling. Do whatever it is that helps you mentally reset and recharge. I think that is even more important now.”