Thoughts from the (homework) frontline

Following a few tough homework assignments, I’ve got a couple of observations about Lyle and Ethan’s studies at this point.

Lyle is stepping up to the plate admirably in terms of independent study, organising himself – and others he’s been working with – to meet deadlines and absorb vast amounts of material, as he progresses through first year at uni studying Geography, Statistics and Sociology.

However, he asked me to cast my eye over a recent essay on the Anthropocene – an epoch in which humanity and the mass-producing, capitalist society we have created is viewed as the overruling factor in determining the nature of the Earth System and the ecosystems within (every day’s a school day!). And it struck me why essay writing is so prevalent in higher education. It forces you to absorb and understand information and then present it in a new and engaging way to show it has sunk in!

I realise that I use this technique all the time at work. I love to read up on things and then reorganise assorted documents, thoughts and observations into compelling news stories and features.

Ethan’s experience of fifth year in high school highlights just how challenging Scotland’s new Curriculum for Excellence syllabus is.

He’s juggling homework and studying for tests on an almost daily basis. Can you blame him, therefore, when he just throws in the towel at 11pm to go and watch TV.

He is currently outlining the introduction to a discursive essay for English and quite late on Sunday asked me to help him with a question for close reading.

I had to read it twice before I eventually understood what it was asking.

To me, the capacity of young minds to learn is just astonishing, but the pressure on young people to perform is equally mind-blowing.

It’s providing a challenge for teachers too, who find they are constantly having to crack the whip to get young people off on the right foot. A teacher friend recounts tales of anxiety, depression and self-harm among pupils as they juggle multiple demands on their time.