illustrated by Justina Wilkins
After a year online, homework deadlines have shifted, and the debate over what time they should be set to has continued. In a Shared Decision-Making Site Council (SDMSC) meeting in February of this year, council members left suggesting homework deadlines up to individual teachers, suggesting late work flexibility and communication with students. Currently, M-A has no school-wide policies surrounding the times homework deadlines are set.
While these practices were designed for distance learning, many teachers have continued to use submission times on Canvas earlier than the default 11:59. For example, AP Statistics teacher Mr. Weiss’s homework assignments are due at 8:00 pm and Mrs. Woll’s homework is due at 10:00 pm.
To ease the confusion of managing different deadlines and the stress of meeting earlier deadlines, homework submission should be standardized to the beginning of class, or an early deadline should be warranted by a flexible late work policy. Staff should respect their commitment to communicating with their students and decide on a deadline that works for both parties.
The main reason that early deadlines should be standardized to be later in the evening is that students are often too busy to solely prioritize finishing their homework. M-A students participate in a variety of after school activities, and many have family commitments, making it almost impossible to finish their assignments early in the afternoon.
Senior Cate Whittaker supported this, saying, “When you turn [homework] in the next day or later that evening, it creates more opportunities for students who have different schedules to do their work at a time that’s convenient for them. So if you have really stressful afternoons, but you’re able to get up early, then you can manage.”
U.S. History teacher Anne Olson said, “I have my assignments due at 9:59 pm. That being said, I think that due dates are arbitrary, so I always tell students to just email me [if work will be late] and turn it in. I don’t take off points for late work, but I use 9:59 pm as an incentive to prioritize sleep over homework.”
Olson is not alone in her decision to opt for earlier deadlines on Canvas. Math teacher Rachel Andres has also chosen to change to earlier deadlines on Canvas, and, like Olson, Andres does not penalize for late work. To her, these earlier deadlines serve to change student’s mindsets. She said, “I think it just changes the target. When students see a deadline of 11:59, they kind of have it in their head that their workday is going until 11:59. And I don’t want that to be the expectation.”
Not all the teachers who have early deadlines have such relaxed late work policies. Junior Ishita Sharma said, “In my class with a 10 pm deadline, my teacher isn’t super flexible with late work. If you turn it in on Canvas, like a minute or two late, it will automatically go in as a five out of ten, which can actually significantly lower your grade. I’m sure my teacher would be willing to give an extension, but late work is not very accepting. It’s just half credit.”
While the time listed on Canvas may seem insignificant, it can cause for quite a bit of tension. Many teachers who use them hope to encourage students to start their work earlier, but some students feel like they have the inverse effect of increasing student’s stress levels. Whittaker said, “I feel like it doesn’t allow students to prioritize things outside of academics, and creates a stress factor of getting the work done just to turn it in and meet the deadline, instead of getting the work done to actually learn the subject or become interested in it.”
Additionally, the argument that early homework deadlines incentivize sleep doesn’t take students’ busy schedules into account. In the case that a student has a commitment after school, they’ll already be completing their homework late, no matter the deadline on canvas.
Senior Luke Jensen added, “I feel like a lot of people would disagree with me, but I prefer having homework due earlier. That being said, if all teachers used it, it would not work at all. Because once you have every assignment due at 8 pm, you just literally can’t get all that work done that quickly.”
Students and teachers should open a discussion on the effectiveness of their deadlines and determine what works for everyone. Olson added, “I just think that sometimes it’s important to question, does this work for me? Or does it work for the student? And can we find a way where it can work for both of us? And I think that’s like the most important thing to consider when determining deadlines or any sort of classroom policies that you might have.”