Enjoying Life? Yeah, Right. With Homework, Not Likely


High school students may as well be called superheroes. We somehow manage to balance homework, sports teams, after-school clubs, social lives, a job, and still find the time to have a mental breakdown every now and again. How do we do it?

“I don’t, I guess,” junior IB student Max Markey said. “The past two years I’ve been able to manage pretty easily, but this year it’s definitely more difficult because of junior year and all the stress that goes along with that. Especially with IB.”

Unfortunately for many students, schoolwork has now managed to cut into our personal lives. We no longer have the time to watch an episode of our favorite TV show the night it airs, or set an hour aside go get dinner with our friends. The truth is, we can’t afford to lose that vital hour on a school night anymore. Because for anyone who knows the difference an extra hour of sleep can make, they’ll choose to sit that Chipotle run out. 

I think people sometimes tend to become an academic or career machine, and they know how to do it really well. But what they don’t know how to do is be a human being. They tend to be a human doing.

— Bridgit O'Sullivan

“There have been a few nights this year where I’ve be up until three in the morning trying to finish everything because of my various extracurriculars and things like that,” Markey explained. “I’m working on cutting back on some of the things I do and just better managing my time.”

But students shouldn’t have to sacrifice doing what makes them happy and keeps them sane for schoolwork. In fact, many colleges make a point to inform potential students that they want to see their applicants find a passion and pursue it. However, this is extremely hard to do when students’ lives are dictated by the workload their teachers dump on them.

“Most teachers try to be [mindful of students’ workload], but I think everybody feels like their class is most important, so sometimes it’s hard for teachers to understand how much time students are spending every night on their homework,” said math teacher Christine McCandless, who tells students to stop working on her assignments after 45 minutes. “But I don’t think most of us [teachers] spent that much time on homework in high school.”

If they weren’t spending all of their time on homework, chances are they were spending it doing things they enjoyed. Adolescent psychologist Bridgit O’Sullivan, who’s been a school social worker for 30 years and now belongs to a local private practice, believes that having fun and pursuing passions are vital to high schoolers.

“It is essential for high schoolers to enjoy themselves. I think again it goes back to the balance. When one thing’s out of balance, it knocks you out of your equilibrium, and somewhere you’re going to suffer if you don’t know how to stop and enjoy yourself,” said O’Sullivan. “I think people sometimes tend to become an academic or a career machine, and they know how to do it really well. But what they don’t know how to do is be a human being. They tend to be a human doing.”

hw grraph for webMariel Lustig

But this primarily academic environment has been known to affect people outside of high school and in the real world.

“So I train people and talk to people about how do you be? How do you be and have fun and connect with another human being?” explained O’Sullivan. “I know recently I’ve heard of books and people talking a lot, even at the Ivy League schools, about how we’re turning out academic students, but they don’t know how to live life. They’re out of balance. They become what society thinks they should become. And so, I’m more about enjoying yourself, getting in tune with some of your loves and some of your passions.”

Until the day our school system adopts the same idea, though, we’ll just have to suffer through endless hours of homework.

This story appears in Volume 85, Issue 2 of the Shakerite (November 2014) on page 12-13.

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