A few weeks ago, I found myself spending my entire weekend devoted to school work—completely defeating the point of a weekend and instead just experiencing a never-ending week. I found that any time I decided to take a break from schoolwork to relax or run an errand, I was only postponing my bedtime, because I was postponing my time spent on work. I ultimately realized that this was all because of the extensions I had to ask my teachers for on Yom Kippur.
As a co-head of the Jewish Students Organization, I have found myself two times this year already explaining to students that they should feel free to ask their teachers for any extensions on homework during holidays, should they feel they need it. I have also said this, knowing that I would contradict my own advice.
To avoid having to take my own advice and face being the “odd Jew out” or having to worry about seeming like I was asking for special privileges, I spent a night that was supposed to be with my family and friends celebrating, worrying about the work that I needed to get done and planning on what time I would have to leave so that I could have the time to do it.
All of this pressure on Rosh Hashanah that prevented me from enjoying it, led me to partially advocate for myself on Yom Kippur in some classes—asking for extensions on assignments that did not feel as though they required immediate attention. And yet, by pushing off those assignments until a later date, I left myself with even more work. The work all piled up, and especially with the new schedule leading to having many assignments due on Mondays, my typical weekend break from school became non-existent.
While I believe that the notes that CA sends out about not worrying about asking for extensions on holidays feel supportive, I often wonder why the homework policy does not simply change to support students more? Coming from a public middle school that did not have an often-referenced mission statement about ideas of equity, empathy, and respect, and yet prohibited homework from being assigned on major religious holidays of various religions, I find myself confused as to why CA does not do the same.
A simple Google search like “Massachusetts Public School’s homework on holidays policy” brought me to dozens of links to Massachusetts Public Schools that seemed more accommodating than CA. Brookline Public Schools are one of these results, stating on their webpage that “No homework shall be assigned on the last day of school before a low attendance holiday that is not immediately proceeded or followed by a weekend.” I am sure that even with this policy, there are still some bumps in the road, such as students feeling like they are then getting assigned more long-term assignments. However, all of these schools that are doing slightly more than CA have the opportunity to serve as our inspiration for forming new policies.
Finally, while I have only spoken from my personal experience, I believe it is important to talk to the student body about holidays that affect various members of the student body’s ability to get work done, and how the school can compromise even further in their homework policies so that no one has to feel like they are the odd one out by asking for what they need. After all, would it really set us back that far academically to not have homework for a few nights a year so that students can observe with their loved ones?