Asynchronous days. They’re one of the most unexpected assets during a crazy COVID year — a blessed reprieve from the chaos of Google Meets and long, masked school days.
For those fortunate enough to have graduated high school, asynchronous days may be foreign — basically, students do not have to attend virtual classes on asynchronous days. Teachers assign work for students to complete on their own time, allowing students to create their own schedules.
On these days, students can sleep in, relax, meet friends, and enjoy being kids — all while the curriculum stays on track, without falling behind. It is the equivalent of a mental health day as students have a day to catch their breath.
All students thoroughly enjoy these days: “[They give] me an opportunity to… catch up on my sleep as well as help[ing] my mental health because school is tiring and stressful,” said Kelsey Schlegal, LRHS sophomore.
The debate for next year is how to use asynchronous days.
New precedent must be set as virtual classrooms open up a wide variety of options for schools. With remote learning and asynchronous days, events such as a gas shortage or snow days don’t have to cancel school: some of these changes have happened already.
In NYC, the department of education declared that future snow days will become asynchronous. “On ‘Snow days’ or days when school buildings are closed due to an emergency, all students and families should plan on participating in remote learning,” said the city’s school website.
Many oppose this notion, however: “some districts’ leaders defended the unexpected days off as a time-honored tradition that all students should enjoy,” said USA Today. “Snow days are chances for on-site learners and virtual learners to just be kids by playing in the snow, baking cookies, reading books and watching a good movie… these are times for memory-making, and we believe these types of opportunities should remain intact.”
A West Virginia school echoed this on a snow day in December 2020, stating that schoolwork could wait for one day. “We will return to the serious and urgent business of growing up on Thursday, but for tomorrow…go build a snowman,” said Bondy Gibson, Jefferson County School Superintendent in a letter.
Many students and teachers agree with the idea that high school students need time and space to be kids, to lay down some responsibility to stress and enjoy life. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen often — striving for success and dealing with stress replaces rest and joy.
One of the biggest problems we face is America’s great obsession with speed. Those who work hardest and fastest are most successful: in high school, this includes kids on the AP track, headed for a big university. And success is the end goal for most. But speed isn’t always good, especially for mental health.
In his recently released book titled The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer details the great enemy of the modern age: hurry. Inventions like the sundial and electricity allowed us to defy nature — before the lightbulb, Americans slept eleven hours a night on average. Currently, high school students average about seven hours.
Additionally, Americans have entered a cycle of more work, not less as theorized fifty years ago.
In the 1960s, futurists all over the world thought that by now we’d all be working way fewer hours. One famous Senate subcommittee in 1967 was told that by 1985, the average American would work only twenty-two hours a week for twenty-seven weeks a year. Everyone thought the main problem in the future would be too much leisure… The exact opposite has happened: leisure time has gone down. The average American works nearly four more weeks per year than they did in 1979.”
This trickles down into high school as well. In addition to seven hours of school a day, many students spend two or more hours on homework a night, depending on their course load. “If I don’t get any homework done during class, [it usually takes] four hours to finish,” said Francis Flemming, junior.
Asynchronous days allow students to make up missing work and gain sleep lost to early morning start times. As mental health issues rise, these less stressful days give necessary mental breaks.
On the other hand, if asynchronous days replace schools’ off days, curriculum can stay on track without sacrificing teacher workdays. This would ensure that longer breaks remain while giving teachers the needed time to teach all material and prepare for exams.
But overall, students fear the decline of asynchronous days in upcoming years. “They re-energize us,” said Schlegal. In their absence, days students miss school, such as sick days, may increase because of the sheer mass of hours spent in school.