No complaints about no homework

Holidays provide a necessary relief from school work

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As the school calendar shifted this year to include days off, students, teachers, and administrators are pleased with the no homework policy on holidays.

These holidays have included Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Fall Break so far, and later in the year, Thanksgiving, MLK Day, Presidents’ Day, Good Friday, and Memorial Day will provide a break for students and staff, labeled as holidays with no school or work.

“A once a quarter break is good for both teachers and students,” said Paul Waechtler, principal of the Northfield campus.

“New Trier is a place where students and staff strive for excellence,” said Waechtler. “That is a great part of our culture, but we also want to provide opportunities to slow down and enjoy other aspects of their lives.”

Principal Denise Dubravec shared that the data from surveys which gathered information about common sources of student stress found that the two highest contributors are academic and post high school planning related.

“Student stress impacts their ability to be their very best,” Dubravec said, mentioning sleeping behaviors and how students feel about themselves as specific factors of student performance, also mentioning the role of the school, self-imposed student pressures, family to student relationships and support.

While there are limits on what the school can do to manage students’ stress and workload, Dubravec said, “one piece we can control is giving kids a break.”

The school has encouraged no work over major holidays for three to four years to truly provide students with a break. This year as the calendar brings back holidays that were excluded for the abbreviated schedule during construction, Dubravec said, “Our goal is to have this calendar every year and continue to be forward thinking so students can enjoy a day off.”

Math teacher Kristen Torkelson said she already tends to avoid giving homework on school holidays, although the subject of math requires daily work.

“Having a break from the daily work is beneficial,” said Torkelson. “I value it, and I think teachers need those breaks too.”

Torkelson mentioned that everyone should use the days off as more of a break, but it fills a much needed purpose of catch up time.

Senior Sabrina Morris clarified that on days off, “you’re doing stuff that’s more long term but at least you have time to do it,” and no homework days are better for reducing stress in theory than in action.

Comparing it to the test day policy, social studies teacher Jennifer Niemi pointed out that if other people don’t follow the policy it won’t work.

Niemi emphasized self-advocating and said, “It can feel scary, but in a really respectful and kind way, students need to call out teachers because this is a well-intentioned policy, but it’s going nowhere if no one’s following it.”

Sophomore Delaney Parris said that while she has appreciated the days without homework, long term or multiple day assignments are “a way of cheating the system” of no homework holidays.

Relaying her experience with her workload and the days off, Morris said, “senior year, it’s either the same amount of work or more with college apps on top of it. It’s a really stressful time, there’s a lot going on mentally, and taking breaks from homework is much needed.”

Niemi called herself a “cheerleader” for the no homework days as a teacher, adviser, and mom and said, “As a department, we are really trying to be mindful, holding each other accountable.” According to Dubravec, the decision to recognize holidays and discourage assignments over these days is new as an official policy and part of the Strategic Plan 2030 for student health and wellness. It’s all about healthy behaviors and decisions and long term effects.

Waechtler agreed that this policy “is part of a continual effort to reduce student stress and make it a priority that students enjoy their high school experience. Homework is an important part of high school and learning, but a once-a-quarter break also shows New Trier values the whole child.”

Ultimately, Dubravec said, no homework days are about the “institution continuing to help kids think about how to take a step back.”

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