DOES IT BOTHER YOU? Students simply can’t catch a break


Photo illustration by Brooke Murphy

It’s tough to enjoy the beach when you are drowning in assignments rather than swimming in the water.

I drift into a wondrous daze as I dream about a blissful state of calm. No interruptions, no anxiety from Google Classroom notifications, no school-affiliated stress. Looking back on my high school career in its entirety, I never truly felt this weight lifted off of my shoulders. Evidently, there are designated days off, but if we really dissect the breaks issued throughout the school year, our so-called “vacations” stray far from their definition.

Let’s start off with summer assignments: the daunting tasks that infiltrate our precious days of sunshine and relaxation. While I understand the concept of summer reading and math packets to keep our skills sharp, my mind cannot fathom a single benefit that derives from writing an excruciating essay or completing an assignment on a subject that we have yet to learn any content about. If you really think about it, summer assignments are a lose-lose situation.

 When we arrive at school after summer break, these monotonous tasks are usually dismissed with zero acknowledgement and the occasional completion grade, rarely having any benefit on a student’s understanding of the future curriculum. The most offensive part is, after I’d sacrificed potential beach days for hours buried in my computer, more often than not, these assignments are not even topics of discussion when school starts. Or students’ grades begin in a downward spiral as they spend the rest of the marking period digging themselves out of a hole created by a grade that measures knowledge from two months without classroom learning. 

One would think that students should be encouraged to enroll in advanced courses in order to challenge themselves, especially as they become upperclassmen and desire to showcase their rigorous schedules upon their transcripts. However, they are consistently punished for pushing themselves academically with unnecessary amounts of homework over the summer and holiday season. 

Teachers urge students to complete summer work in a prompt manner and avoid waiting until the last minute, but doing assignments too far ahead of time allows the information to seep out of our minds, an idea that also contributes to the lack of fundamental value surrounding summer assignments as a whole. 

In the midst of the holiday season and as spring enters its peak, students are gifted a week of no school. While this time off is disguised as a privilege, in reality, the stress never dissipates. I can recall multiple instances where I have been forced to leave a family dinner or miss out on a part of my vacation to complete mundane tasks that could have easily been embedded into the school week. I shudder thinking about the projects and essays that occupied my mind and prevented me from taking a sigh of relief. More often than not, these assignments are handed out right before school goes out of session, so there is no way to get ahead of the curve and avoid using hours that were supposed to be meant for relaxation. 

As I prepare to make my exit out of the halls of West Essex, my wish is for students to receive the much-needed mind cleanses that my class never had the opportunity to experience. When I graduate in June, I am looking forward to taking my first real “break.”