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The Stress of Assignments during COVID-19

Students like me face unprecedented mental health and emotional challenges during COVID-19

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Wants to help accurately portray the knowledge and educated opinions of teenagers in the Pelham School District by creating a platform where students can express their view on real world topics such as politics, culture, and sexual health. Volleyball player, member of her school's student council and lover of TV.

(Source: iStock)

It was Monday morning when I logged into Google Meet for a math class and my WiFi suddenly crashed. In my panic to reload the page, I got an alert on my phone saying that my teacher assigned an activity to be completed by the end of the period. I was now frantic about being marked absent or tardy in the class and also anxious about the additional pressure of submitting an assignment during the allotted time. This stressful situation is one I have encountered more times than I could count and one that many of my peers face daily.

This is only one of the challenges I have faced over virtual learning, along with a lack of motivation and poor time management skills. I know that my fellow students face the same issues, for we were reminded as a class by two separate teachers on the same day that a number of students had not turned in any classwork assignments. I was also informed by my teachers that as a grade, we had performed rather poorly on a multitude of labs and tests in classes ranging from English to Math. An alarming observation for a grade where more than half of the students are placed in advanced classes.

My friends relay stories of their stress and minimal understanding of material in our group chats and video calls. One student, Amy Doughtery, told me, “With three siblings, there is often background noise, and it’s distracting… Sometimes I feel that I am getting a different education than the other students in our class because it is harder to learn through the computer than in person… It’s really difficult and not motivating!”

This is happening to students across the U.S. who are taking part in online courses. Many have lost the little motivation they had to get work done, and they may now view online classes as optional despite instructors’ efforts.

This lack of motivation strives from the feeling of stress that students get when our assignments pile up, one after the other, and we do not understand the subjects which we are being taught. In this situation, many of my friends have developed an “I will do it later” mentality, only to never actually do it later.

I believe that the first step schools should take to get their students motivated again, is to re-evaluate the amount of work they are truly assigning.

One of my teachers took this step and acknowledged the fact that the course load for students was too heavy. He then decided that all homework for his class would never be due the day after it was assigned, allowing students multiple days to complete an assignment. When I asked him through an email why he made this change, he wrote: “My decision to change the way I assigned homework/projects was based partly on observation (what I saw happening among my students) and partly on empathy (what I imagined it might be like to be overwhelmed with homework deadlines when, at the same time, I might be dealing with stress or fear or anxiety).”

After his new policy was introduced, I asked the other students in his class what they thought about it, and they all said they were grateful. One student told me that it had “lifted a weight off of their shoulders,” and that they were no longer as stressed in his class.

All teachers in my community should follow his lead and stop assigning homework or classwork to be due the next day so that the students can have more time to sit down and thoroughly complete the assignment. This new system would allow an opportunity for students to come to class the day after the work was assigned, and ask any questions that they had regarding the work due the next day. This would also give students the chance to develop good time management skills because they will be the ones to decide which assignments they complete and on which days.

Teachers should certainly not create assignments that are to be handed in and graded by the end of that period. Not only do all students work at different paces, but technology issues can prevent a student from loading the assignment fast enough to leave time for them to actually complete it. Even putting the assignment as due for 11:59 at night on the same day would help tremendously because it gives the student the rest of the day to fix their technology issues and get the assignment done.

Not assigning work due by the end of the class period and giving students multiple days to complete an assignment are the two first steps that teachers should take in order to ease the stress levels of students. Virtual learning is difficult enough for students with technology issues, and we do not need to put more pressure on students throughout the class period.