A Bittersweet Head of School Day

This Monday marked Head of School Day (HOSD), an annual event in either Winter or Spring Term where students have the day off from classes and athletics to sleep in, catch up on assignments, and get ahead on work. Despite these intentions, this year’s HOSD fulfilled none of these expectations for many of us, leaving students stressed and anxious for the week to come. At its very core, this day is meant to bring the Andover community together and act as a time to destress, but with this year’s planning, students were not allowed the time to relax and instead had to worry about completing assignments in a four-day week that were originally designed for five days. Despite the administration directing teachers to not assign “Third Homework,” an asynchronous homework assignment between meeting periods for a class, many teachers did not have space in their syllabi to drop an entire assignment from the curriculum, leaving students with more work to complete in less time.

Ultimately, Head of School Day should not serve as a placeholder to push back work but rather as a day where all classes and assignments due are canceled. HOSD should have been a day in which students had the opportunity to spend time with friends, enjoy their other past-times, and focus on taking care of themselves. This HOSD, however, was not an extra day of relaxation and was instead time for students to do more work. It seemed as if teachers were pushing students to “utilize” HOSD to get ahead in the curriculum and catch up on past work, with an equal amount of work, if not more, given to students the following week. The entire point of HOSD is to reduce the amount of work and lighten the burden for students. Students don’t need more time to do the same amount of work; students simply need less work.

A day created to help alleviate the workload of students became counterintuitive, as the need to retain the same amount of academic content was prioritized over the well-being of students. To compensate for the time lost, some students had five classes on one day, having no allotted time to eat lunch and with the four-day week schedule. Rather than giving students space to look after themselves and their mental health—what HOSD traditionally represented—students have to worry about the increase in assignments they need to turn in or even what time they will be able to eat their meals. The planning that went into HOSD speaks to the larger issue of the lack of understanding between students and the administration. Andover needs to provide students with meaningful and helpful ways to better care for their mental health.

We understand the flexibility a school year in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic requires, and that we all must adapt to the circumstance’s demands, but students still need time to care for themselves. We, as a student body, need time to rest without feeling the pressure to complete assignments or study for the onslaught of quizzes perpetually looming over our heads. Rather than condensing the usual amount of assignments into the four-day week, teachers should have assigned students less work to give students the opportunity to truly enjoy their HOSD.

We recognize the challenges in scheduling, as teachers must adapt their curriculum to fit the new pace and reduced class time while teaching courses in a productive way for the students. After all, Andover is a school known for its rigorous and enriching education. Yet, Andover is more than that to students, and our roles as members of this community are not simply defined by what we learn. We share our greatest and most valuable moments with our peers and teachers, moments of pride, strength, unity, and healing. Andover must allow its students to have more time, to be more than just students.