Give us a break

Mason’s independent learning days failed to give students and staff the break they deserve

Megan Clinton and Audrey Morrison

A student puts her head on a desk with papers.
Former Mason student Chelsea Lang puts her head on a desk among a mountain of papers. Many students feel overloaded with work in this year’s virtual setting. (Photo by Sierra Sulc)

The workload with online school is overwhelming. As soon as a big assignment is turned in, two more are assigned. It’s hard to catch a break and relax. It’s a never ending cycle of stress where students must choose between prioritizing their mental health or making sure that all of their assignments are completed.

The idea of the Independent Learning dates on October 8 and 9 seemed very attractive. The days were planned to provide students and staff with a much-needed break, time to enjoy themselves freely and relax, as well as productive time to catch up on late work.

The days sounded great—that is, until we were assigned work to be completed during those days on top of the homework we all already had. Much of the new work assigned to us on Independent Learning days took longer than the 55 minute class block we would have had in a normal school day.

Workload has always been strenuous and intense at Mason, but this year, due to the online format, it’s become nearly impossible to keep up with all of the new information and homework each day. Students are struggling right now with procrastination and burnout, and these days only worsened the symptoms. Students fell even further behind on schoolwork and were subsequently more stressed.

Instead of having independent learning days, a day or a weekend where no work can be assigned or due would greatly improve the mental health of students. Having a full day dedicated to taking a break and relaxing would give all of us a much needed break. We wouldn’t have to choose between prioritizing our mental health and getting all of our school work done.

Students shouldn’t have to feel guilty about taking time to relax and take a break from doing schoolwork. Before this year, we could look forward to the weekend and having a break from school where we can relax and hang out with friends. Now, we still want to relax and spend time with our friends and family in the ways we can, but we are weighed down by homework and impending projects that take up all of our free time. 

The mental health of teachers should also be taken into account. Their jobs have become a lot harder due to the pandemic. They are being asked to recreate school in a virtual format, which is incredibly challenging. Like all of us, they also have lives outside of school and could benefit from a break as well. Most of our teachers have expressed that they are also falling behind on work due to stress and lack of time. 

The time we’re not spending doing my homework on the weekend, students usually are worrying about it in the back of their mind. This is all while we are living through a global crisis and an incredibly unstable and heated social and political climate. We are also growing and developing as teenagers and students. Every day we are bombarded by news, political content, and new academic content. This is a time when we’re supposed to be figuring out who we are, how to socialize, and how to build relationships—the pandemic has created so many obstacles to those goals. We’re already overwhelmed; we shouldn’t have to deal with unprecedented school stress on top of that.

Every day, we hear our friends say they’re getting “burnt out” or “failing.” Ellie O’Neill, a junior, said, “I’ve always been a person who does their work on time and puts all their effort in, but recently I’ve found it hard to find motivation and to take the learning environment seriously because I’m at home all the time.” This is a perfectly natural response to a complete stimulus overload, and one so many students can resonate with.

Students and staff deserve designated time where they don’t have any work to complete and can take the time to relax and take a break from the fast paced world we’re living in. We could all use a break.

Opinion articles in The Lasso reflect the opinion of the writer(s). They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Lasso Editorial Board or of George Mason High School.