A Tenth Grader Speaks Out: Slowly Strangled to Silence

At the end of the school year, I received the following speech from a 16-year-old male student, who is now a junior at a public school in California. He enjoys playing drums, wants to go to Pepperdine University, and told me, “I don’t mean to brag, but the class liked my speech most.” I hope his teachers listened to what he had to say.

Slowly Strangled to Silence: Homework
by a 10th grader

“Where did my life go?” asked the boy who was killed by homework. As young people growing up, teenagers (like anyone else) should be able to enjoy life, not being harassed every week by the obnoxious voice which taunts “Oh! You can’t go today. You’ve got that huge project to do…remember?” Unfortunately in the society that individuals live in today, (honors and AP) students are bombarded with ever-increasing amounts of homework each and every day. Where is the good in making students spend their days and weekends on a pile of work?

Of course, one might argue that homework is beneficial to a student’s learning and journey to college. Yes, homework is indeed beneficial and even essential to students in their road to success, but extensive amounts of it are unnecessary and harmful. Aside from taking away time from relaxing and being a kid, large bundles of homework, for many who choose to take school seriously and do their work, harm a student’s well-being.

Many students have experienced sleep deprivation and severe stress because of their large work load. Going to sleep past twelve o’clock everyday is extremely unhealthy. Research shows that sleep deprivation can lead to a weakened immune system, depression, irritability, and decreased alertness and ability to focus. If teachers do not care enough about their students’ physical health, then they should at least recognize that they are also hurting themselves by assigning hours of homework. As mentioned above, students who are not getting enough sleep will have decreased alertness and ability to focus. This means that their grade in the class is bound to drop. Because the student’s grades will suffer, the teacher also suffers as he/she is responsible for teaching the students.


Instead, why not give less homework? This would be more effective in a student’s learning because a reduced amount of work would mean more time to learn and, therefore, help students improve grade wise, as opposed to just doing busywork. In math class for example, why does the teacher assign twenty problems on the same type of math problem? If the student understands the concept, he/she will not get better at solving the problem if he/she does it twenty times again. On the other hand, if the student does not understand the concept, he/she will not comprehend it any more by failing twenty times. In fact, the student will focus more on finishing the assignment rather than learn how to do it.

As a sophomore in high school taking on three honors classes and an AP class, I understand what it is to be sleep deprived and extremely stressed. Entering the school year, I was doing great in all my classes. I readily learned the information being explained and took a firm understanding of what I was being taught. As time progressed, the homework loads became greater. Not long after the school year began, I found myself going to sleep past twelve ‘o clock everyday, not because of distractions, and being overwhelmed by stress. At first, this did not affect my performance in academics, but as I lost more and more sleep the consequences started to kick in. It became difficult for me to focus, learn, understand information, and remember information. Furthermore, my alertness decreased, my thinking became slower and my desire to learn decreased to a minimum as all I wanted and could think about was sleep (currently my homework amount has decreased and I am getting more sleep). I saw that my grades were slowly dropping. This made me very unhappy as my initial goal was to attain straight A’s. Not only has homework harmed my grades, but also my overall well-being. As I became accustomed to sleeping for only 6.5 hours, life became difficult (keep in mind that sleep deprivation, in this case, is directly related to excess homework). As mentioned above, depression is a symptom of sleep deprivation. Although I never grew depressed, I did find it more difficult to be content. Additionally, it became more difficult for me to appreciate things, hold a conversation, and respond to various questions.

I trust that these points have influenced your thoughts on surplus homework. I hope you [teachers] will consider assigning less homework to your students as a means of having a more effective teaching system and supporting their total well-being.

12 Comments on “A Tenth Grader Speaks Out: Slowly Strangled to Silence”

  1. PsychMom says:

    Last night I was at a meeting. I asked a fellow Mom how her son was doing in high school, having started Grade 10 in September. She said, “I’m so glad he’s not going into the International Baccalaureate Program (similar I guess to doing AP courses in the States).” Then we both said at the same time, in harmony: “It’s not worth it”

    This student, and his well written speech, is confirming that.

    December 8th, 2009 at 8:03 am
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  2. Mary Sullivan says:

    Many teachers and parents may not know that doctors recommend 9 hrs/day of sleep for teens — http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-needs — and that the risks of chronic inadequate sleep can be significant. Glad this student addressed the issue in his speech. Well said!

    The issue is esp. important now that flu season is in full swing, as sleep is a major factor in immune function. It looks like H1N1 may not be as serious as predicted (thank goodness), but still, schools are filled with the “at risk” demographic for this particular strain of flu … kids & teens, young-adult staff, pregnant women. They’d do well to prioritize health, including adequate sleep and (another casualty of excessive HW) regular, moderate exercise.

    December 8th, 2009 at 5:34 pm
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  3. Disillusioned says:

    This tenth grader makes many cogent points. Perhaps we should allow these wise high school kids a seat on their local school boards. If we truly want them to have a sense of responsibility, we should allow them a voice in shaping their high school experience.

    December 9th, 2009 at 1:54 am
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  4. HomeworkDoesn'tHelpMe says:

    I agree with this speech 100%!
    I’m in high school, and I’ve been getting 6 hours of sleep maximum and 4 hours of sleep minimum! All due to the increases amounts of homework

    February 28th, 2010 at 2:51 pm
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  5. Over-Loaded Junior says:

    I agree as well. I’m a Junior in high school. For the past five months, I have had, on average, 6-8 hours of sleep a week. No, not a night. A week. For example: last week, the load of homework was so ridiculous, I didn’t sleep for two days straight. I was told to go to the nurse because my eyes were bloodshot and I was extremely lethargic in class. They thought I’d been doing drugs.

    What did the nurse say? “Go in the back, right now, and sleep. You’re about to collapse.”

    Had I not been sent to the infirmary, I would have collapsed a few hours later. The over-bearing load of homework is obviously not helping, so why do they keep giving it to us?

    I have also written a letter to my school’s Headmaster, telling him of my grievances and have yet to have an answer.

    April 12th, 2010 at 1:16 pm
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  6. HomeworkBlues says:

    Mary writes: “Many teachers and parents may not know that doctors recommend 9 hrs/day of sleep for teens?—”

    Mary, it still boggles my mind that many educators “may not know.” And why is it that they do not know? Isn’t it their job to know?

    Nine and quarter hours, actually, are the recommended amount. Many (mine for example) need ten. I firmly believe parents must constantly educate and advocate for their children. Never stop. But there does come a point when we all have a right to lose some patience. Get with it, guys. This isn’t rocket science. Teen sleep is not a best kept secret.You are educators. You work with children. So know something about them already!

    April 12th, 2010 at 2:27 pm
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  7. Stressed Out Steele Canyon Senior says:

    I am a Senior attending Steele Canyon High School and right now as I am posting this comment, it is 12.02 A.M. P.S.T. I have been working on my homework all day and haven’t even made a dent in it. I probably won’t be sleeping at all tonight, which is the usual norm for me 5 days a week. Everywhere I go, I have a thermos that is always topped off with coffee. I am having to live off of 5 of those thermoses of coffee just to stay awake during the whole day, and it usually makes me feel quesy. I have been drinking coffee since the 7th grade. This article reminds me of what I go through every week.

    November 29th, 2010 at 3:07 am
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  8. OnTheEdge says:

    I agree with this all the way.
    I’m a freshmen who’s taking Honors Biology, Honors World History, Honors Geometry, Honors English 9, and Latin. I know that I’m probably just going to be told I should have taken less difficult classes, but I’m really just trying to do the best I possibly can do.
    I usually only get about 4-6 hours of sleep a night, and it’s been going on for months now. That actually seems to be quite a lot after reading other people’s comments. The same thing happened last year. I get nauseated whenever my teachers start talking about a new project, and I’ve been brought to tears from the stress of all the different assignments I’m usually working on. I even work all weekend, because I’m trying to bring up my abysmal Geometry grade. Near the end of last year, I was having breakdowns nearly everyday.
    I’m constantly sick, and I mean that literally. Unless I’ve taken medication, I am coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, sore throat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It might be a normal illness, if it hadn’t been going on for about five months straight.
    I may have Dyslexia, but it’s mild. I’m not mentally disabled, I have an IQ of 142. For most of my life in school I’ve hardly struggled. But now when everything is huge and piled on and the stress sets in I can’t even focus unless I have someone sitting next to me, making sure I remain on task.

    Someone needs to do something about schools and the stress they’re causing. I’m tired of not sleeping, and I’m tired of having breakdowns. I’m hardly the worst case.

    November 15th, 2011 at 9:22 pm
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  9. HomeworkBlues says:

    What is so sad about On the Edge is, here is a student who is hard working, earnest, cares about school and learning and look what we’re doing to her (her, right?). These kids will do the impossible. Let us not ask them to do the impossible.

    November 16th, 2011 at 1:49 pm
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  10. Family Time says:

    I’m a tenth grader who is taking all pre-Ap classes including Spanish pre-Ap. This week is Thanksgiving break. Your supposed to spend time with your family and eat and get fat and go shopping on Black Friday. But am i doing that? no I’m stuck in my room trying to write a research paper for English due on Monday. We were told we would have a week to write the paper. And that’s only a small portion of my homework. I also have 50 questions for algebra and not one but TWO projects for Spanish. I have to read 6 chapters in the book we are reading for English and i have a project in chemistry…all due on Monday. So I’m spending my “break” doing homework and not spending time with my family like i should be. What’s the point in having a break if all I’m doing anyways is school work?

    November 23rd, 2012 at 10:18 pm
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  11. Anonymous says:

    A very motivating speech. THANK YOU for such speeches

    October 27th, 2014 at 8:44 am
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  12. Anonymous says:

    I AM VERY MOTIVATED BY YOUR SPECH.I MYSELF IS A 10TH GRADE STUDENT AND HAVE NO TIME TO STUDY BUT JUST KEEP ON SUBMITING ASSIGNMENTS.MY GRADES HAVE GONE FROM THE TOPPER IN CLASS TO THE END POSITION IN CLASS.CAN YOU PLEASE HELP ME OUT ABOUT WHAT SHOULD I DO?PLEASE REPLY AS QUICK AS POSSIBLE….

    October 27th, 2014 at 8:48 am
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