The Wildcat Tribune

Nonstandard deadlines equal later sleep times

Michael Han, Assistant News Editor

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It’s 9:58 p.m. You browse through the row of green check marks across the top of the screen, and you only need one more. As your anxiety rises, you double your efforts to finish the question. However, you’re inexplicably unable to submit your answer. You glance at the clock in the corner of your screen, and it’s 10:00 p.m., when WebAssign homework and countless other assignments are due. Situations like this are all too familiar for Dougherty students; a mountain of work combined with such early submission times is confusing and stressful.

As a junior at Dougherty Valley, I’ve been through many classes and their corresponding deadlines. I’ve submitted my English essays to Turnitin.com at 10:00 p.m. and my Honors Pre-Calculus assignments at 1:00 a.m. (apparently I was supposed to be asleep by then). However, from the plethora of deadlines I’ve experienced, by far the most reasonable was Mr. Schnell’s AP Chemistry deadline of 7:30 a.m.

The universal goal of teachers is to enable their students to achieve their goals. To achieve this, they ought to eliminate inconsistent deadlines and replace them with ones specifically designed to best help students reach their full potential. Specifically, 7:30 a.m. on the day an assignment is due, is the optimal deadline for students and teachers alike.

We used to receive handouts from our teachers and pass them to the front of the row at the beginning of class. However, as education shifts increasingly towards online platforms such as Google Classroom, WebAssign, and HaikuLearning, teachers have an unprecedented amount of control over how and when students do their homework. To be fair, however, they often have the best interests of their students at heart and attempt to use deadlines to teach them valuable life lessons.

“In my experience, [procrastination] is a teenage thing. Teenagers in general tend to procrastinate because learning how to not procrastinate and use time efficiently is a skill that is developed over time. [When I was a teenager], I procrastinated as well, but learning how to develop time management skills is something that’s really beneficial to people in general,” Mrs. Alicia Kerr, an AP Seminar and Honors Chemistry teacher, said.

Early deadlines seek to minimize stress for students, a goal shared by students and teachers alike. However, although it is an admirable target, the manner by which some teachers attempt to achieve it is inherently flawed.

“Something that worries me is the lack of sleep that students get … It’s important that students are in bed at a reasonable time; I hope that by 10 p.m. they can quit working,” Kerr said.

In a survey of 70 Dougherty students, about 73% of participants reported that at least one of their classes had a homework deadline between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. Most commonly cited were AP Seminar and AP Calculus AB. However, despite the overwhelming majority of students that reported early deadlines, the average time that students went to bed was about 11:50 p.m.

Despite these pure intentions, the 10 p.m. deadlines illustrate the discrepancy between the expectations that teachers impose and the reality that students face. Instead of going to sleep at 10:00 p.m. after finishing their homework, students are more likely to start working on homework for a class with a later deadline, keeping stress levels the same. Without standardization, early deadlines are ineffective in helping students sleep earlier. At best, they ensure that a specific assignment is submitted by an arbitrary deadline.

A 2017 survey of over 1000 participants done by CareerCast.com found that the most commonly cited cause for workplace stress was deadlines. In a competitive academic environment like Dougherty, students precariously balance their homework with extracurriculars such as sports, volunteering and clubs. For example, Sanyu Kumaran, a sophomore in Mrs. Soliman’s AP Calculus AB class, reports that his soccer practice occasionally prevents him from finishing his homework on time, as he doesn’t get home until 8 or 9 p.m.

“When teachers set arbitrary deadlines, I definitely get more stressed out; as a result, I tend to sacrifice quality in order to turn in assignments by those due times,” junior Siddharth Nandy explained. “I wholeheartedly believe that this is detrimental to my education. I would much rather earn a B for meaningful work than receive a B after quick, almost thoughtless work that isn’t representative of my skill.”

Deadlines with such little flexibility effectively kill creativity and incentive to learn, turning homework from an opportunity to practice and improve one’s skills to an assignment completed solely for the purpose of maintaining one’s grade, directly opposing the school’s vision, which, according to the DVHS website, is to “encourage … students … to become creative, engaged, and ethical global citizens.” Ultimately, such short and inflexible deadlines have a detrimental effect on not only students, but also teachers who seek to help their students and realize the school’s goals.

For the benefit of the school as a whole, something needs to change. Although such early deadlines were initially formulated to support students, they actually inhibit learning. Furthermore, deadlines without standardization can be confusing to students, creating uncertainty how much time they have to complete assignments. Consequently, all Dougherty teachers ought to adopt a universal online submission deadline of 7:30 a.m. on the day the assignment is due.

A later deadline avoids placing undue stress on students, especially those with numerous extracurricular activities. If deadlines are not as pressing, students will experience less stress, allowing them to work more efficiently and actually learn the content.

Some might argue that a simpler solution is for these students to not take on so many activities and burdens because the entire dilemma is a result of their own individual choices. However, DVHS’s mission statement guarantees “equitable access to rigorous and engaging learning opportunities.” By pushing back deadlines, teachers can help students learn more effectively without forcing them to sacrifice their extracurricular activities, thus achieving said mission.

However, pushing back deadlines so far could have the unintended consequence of encouraging procrastination. Even if deadlines are much later, won’t students just start working an hour before that deadline? Unfortunately, procrastination is inevitable among high school students, and it is unreasonable to hope to completely eliminate procrastination through earlier deadlines. Consequently, the best option is to give students with extracurriculars, often the ones who want to learn the most, equal opportunities to succeed and produce their best work, as guaranteed by the school mission statement.

Later deadlines also lead to better relationships between students and teachers. When teachers assign deadlines arbitrarily, students are essentially forced to do homework in a specific order to meet deadlines as they come up, causing reactance, an unpleasant motivational arousal to offers, persons, rules or regulations that threaten or eliminate behavioral “freedom.” This resentment eventually manifests itself toward teachers, the ones who set the deadlines, and festers animosity. By setting later deadlines and giving students freedom, teachers prevent the development of conflicts that otherwise would have been unspoken and unresolved.

No matter how you look at it, later, standardized deadlines benefit everyone. Teachers are able to better help their students succeed and understand content. Students have more time to finish work at their own pace, reducing the urge to resort to cheating and consequently being less stressed. Later deadlines would also improve student-teacher relationships and communication. Ultimately, Dougherty Valley would receive direct benefits on all levels from implementing a universal online submission deadline of 7:30 a.m.

 

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Nonstandard deadlines equal later sleep times