About a year ago, I posted a piece by a New York City private school 10th grader, I love School, but it’s Killing Me. I was reminded of her when I received a call from the mother of a New York City 10th grader, whose daughter was spending 6 hours on homework a night and was both sleep deprived and starting to dislike school. The mother let her daughter stay home from school for a few days to catch up on sleep and notified the school that accommodations would be needed so that her daughter’s homework load would be lessened. When it was clear that the school wasn’t interested in reducing its homework load, despite the concerns raised by many students, the 10th grader (with her parents’ approval) decided to withdraw. Here’s the letter she wrote to the school:
A Tenth Grader Speaks Out–”My Curiosity and Desire to Learn is Constantly Shrinking” Because of Excessive Homework
I hope you will understand that I am more comfortable expressing my feelings through this letter than a conversation in your office. Believe me this is a difficult letter to sit down and write. I am devastated by the way things have progressed and yet I know I am making the right decision. I would like to explain my reasons for wanting to leave your New York City private school.
There are so many things I truly love and will miss about the school, including my yoga and sculpture classes, some of my teachers, Film Club, trips, and the way I felt welcomed by the community.
As you know, after the first few weeks of tenth grade I was already feeling burnt out from what I felt were unnecessary amounts of homework. I really appreciated you allowing me to drop Chemistry. This helped because it eliminated an hour of homework each night and also, frankly, Chemistry is not a subject I am interested in. Unfortunately, it was not a solution, and the fact that I am in other classes that I feel similarly about makes it difficult for me to learn joyfully, and impossible for me to pursue other interests outside of school because of the intense amounts of homework assigned. (I was forced to give up piano lessons for the first time in 8 years).
I love learning. During the summer I took a life drawing class, read a dozen books (including my first Nabokov), and managed to keep up playing piano, while maintaining an internship for a non-profit publication. I even worked on my French by reading a french translation of Alice in Wonderland.
I feel that my curiosity and desire to learn is constantly shrinking when I spend time on assignments that I feel are “busywork”- and an inordinate amount of them. I also have come to realize that a traditional school environment is not only the wrong match, but is also unhealthy for me. While sitting in class taking notes from a powerpoint presentation works for the majority of teachers and students, I can honestly say that it is deadly for me. Separately, I refuse to accept- in a subject that I love- to have a teacher call on me only when my hand isn’t raised. The few classes I had left to enjoy were fun, but far too easy for me. I certainly would not complain about this fact when I had 6 hours of homework waiting at home.
One of my most valuable learning experiences was through my in-school community service, where I worked with the art teacher in the 3rd and 2nd grade classrooms. This was a really great way to learn for me because I’m interested in teaching art to children as a possible profession. Not only did I get to watch an inspired teacher and a great person in action, but I also was able to really get involved and connect with the kids. This is the kind of learning that I crave. I wasn’t sitting at a desk taking notes on someone talking about what 3rd grade art teachers do.
So, I am saddened and disappointed that the school I have come to know is very different from the school I thought I was signing up for. I have every intention to come in to say my proper goodbyes. I am exploring my options right now, and as soon as I settle on a plan I will contact you to arrange a time.
10th grade student