Breaking work, or working break?

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Photo by: Rhiannan Ruef

Though winter break offers a quick break from everyday classes, it is far from being entirely work-free. "I think [break homework] helps us to review things that we tend to forget," said Madison Waterlander, junior (pictured above). "But at the same time, break is supposed to be time with family."

With the work load intensifying over the school year, coupled with approaching finals and AP testing, school breaks are designed to offer school staff and students alike an opportunity to relax. However, a number of teachers assign additional work during this time, resulting in mixed reactions and opinions from both parties.

Mr. Charles Fiacco, Cam High math teacher, generally believes that homework over school-mandated breaks is not the way to go. In Fiacco’s experience, any homework he assigned over the break was usually done in a less-than-satisfactory manner. “When it’s the break, people often won’t put in their full effort on an assignment, and there’s a lot of copying. Students end up feeling rushed and the quality of their work suffers. With what I did this year, students have a chance to rest for the AP test.”

After taking a vote, Fiacco’s classes decided to have their finals before winter break began, much like a college schedule, (you can find more in-depth Stinger coverage on that issue here).  “I think [having finals before the break] is better for the students, and it means I don’t have to assign anything,” said Fiacco.

Francisco Villegas, senior and student in Fiacco’s Calculus class said that he agrees with Fiacco’s philosophy regarding break work. “Usually over the break, I don’t want to do any work, and I end up procrastinating, like most students do. With [finals before the break], and no other work assigned, I didn’t feel any pressure to get anything done.”

In years past, students were given a month between the end of winter break and the beginning of finals week, in order to prepare for testing. Fiacco said that break time should simply be an opportunity for students to get extra credit rather than assigning normal work. “Usually, I only assigned only a small amount of work or extra credit. I would always have students coming to me asking; ‘what can I do to get my grade up?’, and that was my answer.”

Unlike Fiacco, Mrs. Tawney Safran, Cam High social science teacher, believes that assigning work over school breaks is essential for her students. She gave homework over winter break and offered an optional study session for students interested. “Because I teach AP, connection and understanding is vital,” she said. “The optional study session was a full house.”

There was, however, concern from all Cam High teachers collectively about the amount of work that should be assigned over breaks. “There was an agreement as a department and as teachers on the break workload, and a focus on quality rather than quantity,” Safran said. “All the work assigned was carefully chosen.”

Christopher Tapia, Cam High senior and previous student of Safran’s, said that some work over school breaks is necessary. “Like most students, I obviously prefer to have no classwork over the break, but I get that sometimes it’s necessary for certain classes,” he said. “I don’t want to forget anything important over the break and fail the final.”

“I get that [break work] is important sometimes, but I feel like a break is supposed to be for doing other stuff that you can’t do during school,” said Villegas.

Opinions range from teacher to teacher as to whether a school break should include homework. But as the competition for AP classes, college admission and grade inflation continues, no single point of view seems to prevail. The question that remains is whether or not there is an academic benefit in assignments given over the break.

Let the Stinger know what you think in the comments below.