Sykes has been overrun by a sea of students suffering from sleep deprivation and bad breath. While the second is a personal pet peeve, the former is the result of Andover teachers’ favorite Christmas tradition: the Annual Homework Challenge.
Originally inspired by Head of School John Palfrey’s Sleep Challenge, the Homework Challenge seeks to weed out the weaker ones in each class by assigning ungodly amounts of homework. Har Dass, Teaching Fellow in English, captured the spirit of the competition in a recent interview: “Basically, the goal when we set out was to make the students’ lives as miserable as possible. But now — now the competition is starting to affect us teachers, and it’s getting out of hand.”
The first Homework Challenge was just between Mr. Dass and his colleague, Ms. Annaw Ying, as they steadily increased their homework loads to see whose students cracked first under the pressure. Eventually, students began dropping out of the school and hallucinating. Rather than tone down their competition, however, this only spurred their competitive spirit.
Soon, chapters of reading per night turned to whole books. Several essays were assigned due the same day, and small addendums to the curriculum turned to projects by the dozen. It was then that other departments caught on, and within a week, students could be seen around campus with backpacks full to the brim with essays assigned mere minutes before and due within minutes after.
While students’ days grew darker and darker and their hallucinations stronger and stronger, many more dropped out. Teachers could be seen around campus grinning from ear to ear, wearing Post-It notes with their total hours of homework like badges of honor.
At press time, Dass, in a move to become the hardest teacher, was seen around campus sabotaging his peers’ assignments and handing answer keys to their students. The future of the tradition is in peril after an episode last night where students were caught releasing a feral raccoon into the Head of School’s office in an act of protest, but at this point, it seems that there very little will stop the power-crazed faculty.