Guy Stressing Over Homework

Today’s letter is from high school student, Sophia Warren, a 10th grader in Brooklyn, New York.

I Love School, But It’s Killing Me
by Sophia Warren

Dear Sara,

My name’s Sophia Warren (we’ve met before a few times now). I’m a sophomore currently at Packer in Brooklyn Heights, NY. Packer is a school that prides itself on the gifted children that attend it and the rigorous academics that they offer. For years I have spent hours on homework. Beginning in the second grade, I sat through standarized tests, I worked on handwriting, and filled out math work book after math work book.

When I was in the fourth grade, each student was assigned an “independent study project.” Most kids were told that they would be working on spelling, logic problems, etc. I was told that I would be writing a novel, working at least a half an hour on it every night plus completing my other homework. At first I was in love with the idea, happy to be exempt from spelling, but it soon took a turn and I found myself miserable and with writer’s block. I was just nine years old and I came home everyday, sat down, stared at my paper, and spent the next hour crying out of frustration. My mom had no idea what to do with me. She finally spoke to my teacher and said that although I had not been writing anything, I had in fact been thinking about the story. He said that my think was not work and that I would not be allowed to go outside the next day during recess and that I would have to work while everyone else had “free time” in the classroom. I spent four months of fourth grade sitting in the classroom at a desk and working while everyone else was permitted to have fun and run around. It did not seem fair to me and it still doesn’t. The finished product kept me up until almost five in the morning. The story was over 160 pages at completion.

I have always wanted to be a writer, but that assignment killed my love of writing for over a year. I figured that if it was that painful to write, I did not want to.

At the present, I spend over six hours on homework a night. It is only just

the beginning of the year and I have already realized that my social life will have to wait until the summer. Almost all of my friends are outside of my school and having six hours of homework a night gives me absolutely no time to see them whatsoever. I go out Saturday nights and work continuously all day on Sunday. I never get more than six hours of sleep a night. I have accepted already that this year I will have little fun, see my family rarely, never spend time with them, not see my friends as much as I would like, and not have nearly enough time to do the things I like. I love music. I’ve played the cello for years now and I’ve recently quit orchestra because I just didn’t have time for it. It was taking up free periods that I needed to complete assignments in. I also love to go the concerts, I love live music, I love booking shows, and I love being part of a community that revolves around excellent music. I find that internships I once had and loved now need to be discarded. I hate that things I enjoyed doing in the summer need to be shoved to the back of my closet until a year from now.

The saddest thing about all of this is that I truly love school. I really love it, but it’s killing me. I’m actually physically uncomfortable right now, my coloring is off, and I’ve already gotten the cold that I will have for the rest of the year. My immune system is already falling apart and I find myself drinking Emergen-C every morning just to keep me alive through the week.

Today I auditioned for the play. Rehearsals run for about four hours a day. I would get home at around seven-thirty every evening and then sit down to do all of my homework. Even the director doesn’t understand. She’s planned a tech rehearsal on Halloween! It’s a holiday! It’s a time to have fun! I put on my schedule that I cannot go to that and that I will not go to rehearsal on Fridays.

It’s healthy to have fun, is it not? It’s not fair that I don’t have time to read, draw, play the cello, see my friends, have dinner with my little brother, or go to the movies with my mom. I live in New York City. I want to submerge myself in its culture and learn from that and instead I spend everyday sitting in my room, slaving away.

A perfect example of the toll homework is taking on my life (and it’s only the second week of school!): Last night I sat down to do my French homework. French is one of my favorite subjects and I assumed the work would pass quickly. Turns out that I had to look up twenty-five vocabulary words, write sentences for each of them, and then write twelve sentences about the girl who sits next to me. I quickly realized that the work was going to take me a very long time. I begin to work and along comes my brother. He’s in the eighth grade, also at Packer. He’s also working on French homework. He’s struggling through his work as well and he keeps asking me questions. This is the saddest thing; we end up fighting! He gets upset because I tell him that I don’t have time to help him and to please stop talking to me and I get angry because he’s upset. I start to feel bad and five minutes later we’re both yelling at each other. My mom comes upstairs and we’re yelling and she starts yelling and my dad comes home from work and everyone’s upset. It puts him in a bad mood and the next thing you know, everyone is angry at one another all because of frustration about homework. I really wish this wasn’t the case.

I’m reading your book right now (there’s no telling how long it will take me though with this much work to do). I hope that I can just explain to my teachers. My teachers are always pretending that they’re conscious of the homework problems but they have the nerve to blame it on time management skills. They blame it on me! I am a fast worker and it takes me six hours. A boy told me just today that his history homework alone took him almost three hours last night.

I don’t want to hate school or learning, but everytime I say anything it is dismissed as irrational and an exaggeration. My teachers just don’t get it. I really wish they did because I find myself counting down the days until winter break already. I don’t have time to do anything I want to do. It makes me cringe to think about junior year and college pressure and the SATs. I have enough on my plate right now. My English teacher just gave us a list of TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY vocabulary words. TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY. That’s insane. We’ll be tested on it at the end of the year to help us for the SATs. High school has been a horror so far. I hear it gets worse. It makes me not want to go to college, which is really sad. I wish my mom would homeschool me, but not all parents have time for that or are qualified to do that. I wish there was somewhere that let me do things I love. I think I am a smart person- not to boast or anything, but I really do think that I’m smart and hardworking. I’m a straight A student and I pride myself in that, but the kids who don’t do homework always talk about what they did after school.

My A is costing me my social life.

Thanks for voicing your opinion on homework. I wish there were more people ready to stand up for both children and parents.

Posted in category Guest Bloggers, Students Speak Out on September 26, 2008 at 8:13 am
Permanent Link | 213 Comments »

Everyone deals with stress. It is an unfortunate reality of human nature. There are expectations that aren't always met and events that occur outside of our control. For many teens, a large source of this stress is school-related. On top of juggling extracurricular activities and a social life, we have to manage homework and studying while trying to stay sane. Sometimes, when the workload seems endless, we can't even imagine how we will survive the week. Although stress is inevitable, there are a few steps you can take to make it a little more manageable. These seven tips are lessons I've learned on how to deal with stress more effectively.

1. Make a study schedule.
As annoying as it is to write down all of your assignments, putting what you need to get done on paper instead of keeping it in your head can be incredibly helpful. You can also estimate the time each task will take you so that you can plan when you will do each assignment. Writing this down will help you stop procrastinating and keep you from worrying about the lack of time you have. As an added bonus, there is immense relief that comes with crossing something off of your list.

2. Find something interesting in the material you are learning.
Part of what makes studying in high school so difficult is that students can't always choose all of the courses they take. Sometimes, the content in the courses that you didn't choose will not be your favorite. A lack of interest in the subject matter actually makes studying more difficult. When you dread doing the work for a class, it will probably take longer to do. To fix this problem, do extra research on what you are learning in class and relate it to something you are passionate about. This way, your homework will seem less like work.

3. Make time for yourself.
Try not to spend huge chunks of time doing nothing but studying. Taking a walk with your dogs or baking a batch of cookies will not ruin your grades. You will find that doing this will actually make you happier. Dance to your favorite artist's new album or catch up on your fantasy football. Schedule these short breaks at regular intervals to reward yourself. Just because you have a lot of work doesn't mean you should become a robot.

4. Don't keep talking about how stressed out you are.
We all know that person who can't seem to stop talking about grades and how much work they have to get done. I know that it is tempting to complain about your stress level and get sympathy from others, but eventually it becomes a competition of who has more work to do. There is no prize for winning this competition. People around you will be thoroughly annoyed and you will end up becoming even more stressed out.

5. Ask for help.
Sometimes, you have to admit that you don't understand something. Feelings of helplessness and confusion almost always lead to more anxiety. Don't wait until the day before a major assessment to seek out help. Instead of having these feelings build up inside you, ask a teacher or friend in your class for help as soon as you identify the source of your confusion. That way, your studying will feel more like review and less like learning something for the first time.

6. Say no to things you won't be able to handle.
We all have trouble saying no. However, sometimes it is necessary to do so for your own sake. There is a major distinction between hanging out with friends for an hour and going on a two-day camping trip on a work-heavy weekend. At the end of the day, you know yourself better than anybody. Find a careful balance between doing the things that you love and managing your workload.

7. Remind yourself that life moves on.
If you find yourself in a state of panic, take a deep breath and put your feelings in context. Better days are sure to come. You do not equate to a number written in red pen. In 10 years, you won't remember that one bad test. You will remember, however, all of the great memories that you made in high school. Don't forget to make these memories.

Follow Jamie Gleklen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jglek

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