My Experience at St. John's University, New York, as an Internee
This case presents one of my experiences as an internee at St. John’s University in New York. The particular case involved the issue of presenting learners with excessive assignments, thus making these students become overwhelmed and eventually discontented with the learning system. The school administrator however, was adamant that student must be given enough homework if the syllabus has to be covered in time and according to the stipulations of the district educational authorities. This actually caused discontent among various learners and at many times, a strike almost erupted in the school which halted the normal learning activities. This matter became full blast when third year students engaged in a full blown strike towards the end of second term with serious consequences since a number of property were destroyed.
The first day of each week, most of the classes which I taught looked bored and disinterested in the learning processes and even the discussion we were having. I observed one of the students scrolling through her phone while another was literary sleeping. Some of the learners were simply staring at me as if it was the first time they had seen me in the classroom. Looking at the mood of the classroom, it was apparent that many of the students were not engaged in the learning processes. Generally, students were complaining of too much academic work, high handedness by the administrators, tight learning schedule, lack of enough free time for social activities, and a lack of concern by the school administrators on student’s issues. Students were also feeling that there was no one that was giving them a hear and therefore, a part from being disinterested in the whole school system, they had opted to voice their concerns using alternative channels. Among the ways which students used to raise concerns as we saw earlier was acting funny in the classroom and even going to the point of protesting.
I observed that there was something that was seriously bothering the students. Further, the excessive homework denied these students a chance to refresh their minds to the point of pressuring them, making it hard for them to concentrate in learning activities. This observation is supported by a study on the impact of excessive academic work as leading to tension, fear among the students, depression, and lack of concentration. Although the administrators had reached a point of giving in to the student’s demands, that is decreasing the rate the quantity of homework provided, another dilemma was how to complete the syllabus as stipulated by the school district authorities. In other words, if they fail to complete the syllabus on time, then it could be said that they have failed their mandate. On the other hand, they continued loading the students with excess homework, then the students could be overwhelmed with school work at the expense of other social activities.
I went a step further to interact with the students in order to understand what made them react the way they did. Some students were literary shedding tears over the amount of homework they were being assigned. I also came to realize that the reason why some students were sleeping in class was because they had been busy doing homework at night and they did not have time to rest. In other words, they were stay late working on the homework. As a matter of helping their children accomplish the work given by their teachers and therefore evade punishments, I also came to the realization that a good number of parents were also sacrificing their rest time including weekends to provide assistance to their children. This too was having a toll on the particular parent’s physical and emotional wellbeing who also need to rest after a long day’s work.
Five of the parents that I visited were quick to confirm that teachers were overwhelming their children with homework. Narrating one particular incident, one parent explained through an email response that her four grade son was expected to conduct a research of at least two significant persons in history and write a six page paper about that. The parent particularly saw this as too odd as this was a tall task for a six grade learners. The parent observed a tendency for schools to put many expectations from the students and push too hard. Furthermore, despite these too much work, such works are not necessary or productive for students.
Teachers made it clear that students needed a good time to relax their minds. This can only be possible through engagement in exercises, outdoor activities, plays, eating well, socializing, and having a good sleep. It was almost impossible for many of the students to engage in such activities when they had to complete the enormous amount of work given as homework. Despite this knowledge, teachers contents that they had to give students more than sufficient homework so that they can catch up with the stipulated timeline in covering the syllabus. In the event that they were unable to complete this syllabus on time, then the educators risked being fired or appraised negatively. Apparently, these educators were concerned on the security of their jobs at the expense of students. On my part, I was able to understand the teacher’s actions and that the blame could be squarely be laid on the educational authorities at the district level.
The student’s actions made me reflect on my education career which made me reconsider the failures of an educational system that had a huge impact on the life and careers of future leaders. What some educators are actually doing to students are overbearing, cruel and destructive to their current and future life. For many years, there has been a subset of Ivy-longing and hard-driving educators who are burdening learners with too many lessons, extra-curricular activities and giving no time to social activities. This phenomena has led to publication of books with titles like the “Pressured Child”, the “Overstressed Kids”, The “Over-scheduled Child” and many more with similar titles.