Homework Overload Is Hurting Students’ Lives—and Our Learning

Students’ schoolwork piles up. Photo by Hercules Zhang.

During hybrid learning last year, I would generally spend one to two hours on homework per night. That allowed me time to focus on extracurricular activities and excel in my classes. I was also able to receive a consistent amount of sleep every night—often up to nine hours—a crucial factor in a student’s health.

This fall, things changed drastically. After the first two weeks of school, I was getting assigned about three to four hours of homework each night, with minimal time to focus on outside activities; my love of learning was diminishing, along with my time for other passions. I lost sleep and grew more anxious.

Originally I believed that my stress was due to the transition from sophomore to junior year, a daunting one I convinced myself I wasn’t prepared for as the work rolled in. Soon, though, in speaking with others, I realized that the homework load had meaningfully increased since last year across all grades, at the cost of students’ wellbeing.

“Once we got back to school teachers became a lot more enthusiastic about what they think is a normal school year and the work that comes with that,” senior Harrison West told me.

In an interview, Assistant Principal of School Life Quinn Killy said that GDS recommends certain limits for the amount of homework students may receive each night. “It’s 70 minutes per class, with flexibility for UL classes,” he said.

Seventy minutes is a substantial amount of work to assign for one class. It leaves scarce time for students to participate in activities outside of school. Both the anticipation of hours of work and the fear of performing poorly amplify stress. 

During the spring sports season, I get home at about 6:15 p.m. It worsens my stress to know that losing sleep may be a necessary sacrifice to keep up with my classes. 

It is the duty of both teachers and administrators to listen to students when they express concerns that the extent of their workloads is doing more harm than good. A guideline of 40 to 50 minutes of homework per class would be a good place to start, because it would allow students more time to dedicate to relaxing and their activities.

Especially in a rigorous environment like GDS’, teachers often overlook the mental strain an excessive amount of homework causes for students. The pressure to succeed discourages students from devoting time to activities they enjoy or to rest. Administrators and teachers alike need to reconsider the amount of stress their students experience from homework.

Ironically, assigning students an excessive amount of work can actually take away from our learning as well. With the pressure to get so much done in a single night, students forget how enjoyable and fulfilling learning can be.

In a less work-heavy environment, students would retain more material because they are not forced to cram so much information each night. When students feel like what we are learning is actually sticking, we grow more engaged in our academic pursuits.

Junior Zaira Chowdhury told me that the 70-minute guideline has hindered her ability to participate in extracurricular activities she had originally hoped to because of the amount of time she needs to spend on academic work. “It’s completely unreasonable,” she said. “I wanted to do rock climbing but I wasn’t able to simply because of the amount of work I have.” 

The 70-minute guideline for homework per class strips students of a substantial portion of the day. A 40- or 50-minute guideline would allow students to appreciate learning rather than feeling burnt out after spending an hour or more on a single class.