Teachers and students vary in opinions on summer assignments


To most students, in this last week of school before the summer, complete and utter freedom is palpable. However, from some students, their summer freedom is not as free as one might have initially thought. After her final day of exams for the school year, freshman Zoe Lipke despite being done with the school year will have the responsibility of keeping up with homework over the summer for two classes: Honors English 10 and AP U.S. History (APUSH).

“I don’t think we should have that much [summer homework],” Zoe said. “It’s going to take up a lot of the summer, and summer is just [a time] for your brain to relax.”

A majority of honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes offered at school require students to complete one or more assignments before the beginning of the next school year. Many students at FHC take at least one higher level class, which in turn results in lengthy homework for multiple classes being assigned over the summer break.

APUSH requires students to read the first three chapters of the textbook and complete a lengthy reading guide. Upon their return to school in the fall, students will be tested over what they read, and then from there, they continue on through the textbook.

“Over the summer, I want to get it done with,” Zoe said. “If I do it too soon, I’m going to forget [to do it] as summer goes on.”

Zoe finds the most difficult aspect of summer assignments to be managing time for all of the reading. Fellow freshman Audrey Sidebotham agrees that finding the right time for the school work will be difficult with the advantages and disadvantages of doing the work either at the beginning, middle, or end of summer break.

Both Zoe and Audrey find common ground in the belief that shortening the amount of reading could be beneficial to students during the break. Between completing the required reading from The Grapes of Wrath for Honors English 10 and the reading guide for APUSH, fully understanding all of the information will be a difficulty for some.

“Since there’s so much reading,” Audrey said. “Sometimes, you’re not going to be able to comprehend everything.”

Zoe and Audrey both see themselves doing their APUSH work sometime in August, but their opinions vary on when to complete their assignments for English. Audrey plans to do her essays towards the beginning of the summer, and Zoe intends to do hers throughout the summer. Contrary to both students’ opinions, the teacher opinion is a little different.

Going into his second year of teaching the class, Honors English 10 teacher Ken George advises students to save their assignments for the last three to four weeks rather than spreading it out over the course of summer break.

“I feel that it should be done in the last three or four weeks of summer so it’s fresh in [students’] minds, and they get July and most of June to refuel,” George said.

George also explained that students should still be reading for their own enjoyment and doing other things, but having homework for advanced or honors classes should be an expectation rather than a shock. Students should find time to do a little of their work at a time over the last few weeks to minimize stress.

George believes the summer assignments seem to make transitioning into the new school year more effective than without any homework. The Grapes of Wrath is assigned for the summer mostly because it’s part of the required curriculum, and students need to read Steinbeck in Honors English 10. One essay due at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year is based on a video about changing education in schools to be more effective and enriching for students, and the other one is on an essay about the effect technology has on society.

“[The Grapes of Wrath] is much like any other novel,” said George. “Once you finish, other than the themes, you probably won’t come back to it. The [novel and essay] on education and being distracted will be common themes throughout the year. Those are the real life things I try to include in my class.”

The assignments are not meant to be stressful for students or scare them out of taking the class. George has tailored his summer homework assignment to what has been done in past years and what worked best for the class. In recent years, there was a lot of debate within in the English Department about whether The Grapes of Wrath should be excluded from the curriculum along with some other components of the class. However, the department concluded that keeping the novel as the summer assignment was necessary because of the difficulty of the reading and the themes present in the book. George and other members of the department believe that these will be useful to students throughout the school year.

Overall, summer homework is meant to set the students up for success in the upcoming school year. George explained that while students may find the work stressful or tedious, the work is meant to introduce themes relevant to what students will learn over the course of the year. In addition, his hope is that students will understand the importance that summer work holds.

“The purpose is not to get [the work] done,” George said. “The purpose is not to take the last two days, just pile it on, get it done, and not have quality or depth of thought. That is not the purpose of a summer assignment in any way. It is to provide a foundation for what we’re going to do throughout the year.”