Does no homework equal no stress?

Ally Riley '20, Staff Writer

Before the 2018-19 school year even began, a list that detailed 11 hand-picked no-homework nights was devised and sent out to all Upper School faculty. Each no-homework night either falls after a holiday, a break, or a concert.

“We were trying to create a respite from the tyranny of the to-do list,” comments Ms. Perry, Head of the Upper School.

Three years ago, St. Luke’s conducted a study to determine the root cause of student stress. The results showed that homework was the leading contender. In response, Ms. Perry and the rest of the SLS faculty initiated a two-pronged approach to help manage student stress. The first was a general appeal to all faculty to examine their daily assignments and assess whether or not they are truly necessary.

“[Faculty] do not have to give homework every night,” Ms. Perry urges.

The second approach was to address the “neverending to-do list.”

“No-homework nights are great because it gives me a stress-free night. I wish that there were more of them,” comments freshman Dylan Mannix.

Three years ago, as an initial experiment, St. Luke’s initiated no-homework nights every Tuesday of the fourth quarter.

“As expected, the students loved having no-homework every Tuesday night, but many teachers felt that it was too compromising for their curriculum. There is tension between our obligation to support students’ psychological health and teaching them the material,” comments Ms. Perry.

Therefore, the St. Luke’s faculty devised the new no-homework night plan that remains in place today.

“I do not personally think that 10 to 12 no-homework nights will be enough to significantly reduce students’ stress. Yet, I do not want to go back and eliminate them because when I have conversations with students, I hear that they are working…however, it is hard to get 100% of the faculty 100% of the time to follow the policy, but they are all coming from a very dutiful place,” comments Ms. Perry.

Some SLS students and faculty feel that while the program is built upon a foundation of good intentions, teachers tend to assign more homework on the day before or after the no-homework nights.

“I really like the no-homework nights because they give us a break, but there is definitely a buildup of assignments on the night after the no-homework night. So, it does not really feel like a no-homework night because I feel like if I don’t get any work done, I will fall behind,” notes sophomore Kathleen Ehlers.

Nevertheless, none of St. Luke’s peer schools have implemented any type of program that is even remotely similar to the SLS no-homework nights. Still, some students and faculty believe that stress can be reduced in more impactful ways.

“I think stress comes from societal and social pressure. A smart teacher can feel the temperature in her classroom and can tell when her kids need a break,” comments Ms. Doran, English teacher and eleventh grade class dean.

Doran continues, “When you have students look like they are under a lot of pressure and there are a lot of skipped school days for a lot of different reasons the only answer is to try to maximize more valuable classroom time and lighten up on the homework load.”