The Craze of Honors Classes

Sophomore Breana Brill on Honors courses.

Some people wonder what the difference is between honors and regular classes. Well, one obvious answer is that honor classes tend to be a bit harder, but another thing I’ve noticed is that honor classes have a lot more crazier assignments and real high expectations.

One example was the sophomore project on A Tale of Two Cities. This project was worth around 245 points, which is a crazy amount. Although I’m going to stick with the fact that having to write over 40 chapter summaries, answer over 100 questions, create a description for each character, and draw out a family tree is a bit out of hand, I can also conclude that from the perspective of a teacher, this project looks to be something an honor student should be able to handle. Teachers believe that as honor students, we would inadvertently keep up with this type of project by putting aside 45 minutes each night.

But see, there’s the problem. As honor students, there is a lot more expected out of us, which is understandable, but is it reasonable? We’re still regular students who will inevitability procrastinate. With procrastination, this kind of project turns into a 16-hour project that you do the day before it’s due. No matter what kind of honor student you are, good or bad, this type of procrastination will happen for a few reasons.

One reason is because there is no way, that for about four or five weeks of reading A Tale of Two Cities, students can put aside about an hour each night to work on the project because we have a life outside of English class, so skipping a night of the project, means we have to put two hours aside for the next night.  For most students this is unreasonable with sports, extracurricular activities, and not to mention the other pile of homework assigned to us by other classes.

But English class is not the only honors class that gets a little out of hand. I’ve also had to do whole chapter outlines for Western Civ. If that doesn’t seem like a lot of work, please take out your Western Civ book and count the pages. It’s a lot.

Now, it’s looks like I’m just another student complaining about homework, but I’m not the only one who has noticed this excessive amount of work from honors classes. Junior Jonass Placitis has also noticed this work load.

“Teachers seem to be relatively oblivious to anything outside of their own classrooms, even other classes that surround them, and that can really put a lot of stress on each individual,” he said.  “Regardless of if a student participates in sports or extra-curricular activities, school does not exist in a bubble; there are external factors that draw from the time that is supposedly meant to be devoted towards the teacher’s homework. Sure, it may not seem so bad when a teach assigns a large homework assignment due the next day; but what happens when the next class does the same, and the next, and the next?”

This type of stress that we have to put up with is a bit ridiculous. I don’t blame some people who actually drop out of honors classes, but I also think it’s best to stick it through. Throughout all these crazy, ridiculous projects, comes learning experiences. You definitely learn how to stop procrastinating, because it is such a horrible habit and you also learn your stress limit. Believe me, for these types of projects it’s above any limit.

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  1. avatar

    As an adult outsider i understand the author’s view. Being in an honors class is not a requirement, it is a choice. It is not the teacher’s concern is one is too busy writing blogs, mentoring freshmen, etc. Should a Navy seal candidate say it is ridiculous to be awake for 72 hours straight? Should a person be entitled to be president of the U.S. without running an election campaign for months? Should an Olympic swimmer who trained for multiple distance races be entitled to a gold medal on each event? Each accomplishment in life involves some type of work and performance metric. From the comments it seems the number of hours and amount of work were exaggerated in the article a bit to force a point. Regardless, it is an honors class and ought to be tough if one is not naturally gifted.

    When people join a track team they do all kinds of silly pointless drills. If you want to be an engineer in the Army, you still have to run long useless miles with 60lbs on your back. If you want to go to a great school to study Religion you might still need a 34 ACT score. And if you want to the prestige of being an honors English student, then reading a book and doing good chapter summaries and reports might be required.

    While some of the homework might seem ridiculous, time management, planning, dedication, and perseverance are also being exercised. Real life outside high school might involve a job with silly coworkers, two active kids at home, a pregnancy, a sick parent, and a husband that loses his job. Do people then complain to God saying life is hard? Or do they handle things one problem at a time until they are all solved? Adults go through this all the time. Some whine, some strive. The author wrote a good last paragraph saying it would be best to stick through tough times. I bet she’ll find any academic and life problems easier to solve after having gone through this class.

  2. avatar

    Big debate on this article!
    Yes, the project seemed waaaaaaaaaaaay too tedious and pointless at the time but honestly that’s what school is all about.

    In the end, there is a lesson behind every assignment and for this one, it was time management. And the consequences of procrastination. And plagiarism.

    It was kind of like a wake up call that a lot of kids need.

    BTW: I ended up LOVING A Tale of Two Cities!

  3. avatar
    Bridget Keenan

    I believe your absolutely right. As an honors student, I sometimes have to stay up until one or two AM on a school night to finish my homework. Not only is it overwhelming, but it doesn’t provide adequate time for personal life, extracurricular activities, or sleep. A lot of kids are discouraged from taking honors, simply because they find the workload overwhelming. I think it’s to the school’s benefit to reduce honors homework. It doesn’t make sense to punish students for wanting to take challenging classes. Students would be a lot more open to taking honors if the workload were more reasonable.

    • avatar

      The point of an honors class is for it to be more challenging, you’ve acknowledged that. So why should the workload be lessened? I took plenty of honors and AP classes at West and they are not that bad. Yes, sometimes the workload is intense but that’s how school should be; every now and then you’re going to have to work harder than you want to.

      People can complain about their workload, that’s all fine. After all, everyone will complain about their workload at times. But don’t make the argument that a class that is supposed to be more advanced should have less work.

  4. avatar

    Mrs. Weatherington’s class is the best :)

  5. avatar

    oh my goodness school is hard? no way girl tell me more.

  6. avatar
    Breana Brill

    Hi guys! As I read through all of your comments, I feel the need to clear some things up.

    First, the idea of this article came from all the complaints I have been hearing about the workload from honors classes. These complaints are not just from me, but also from your peers. I write articles that I believe are a “hot topic” around school.

    Now, a majority of these comments talk about how I completely bash the, A Tale Of Two Cities project. I was merely using this project as an example. I agree with you all that this project was not a waste of time and that it was educationally stimulating, I never stated otherwise. Again, I was just using this specific project as an example of the workload. There are a lot of other projects from honors classes I can come up with to replace it. There was no intention in this article to degrade the project.

    Another thing I want to clear up is that the, A Tale Of Two Cities project I refer to, was due about two months ago. I’m informing you on this because a lot of you assumed that this article was a form of procrastination for the project. Obviously, that is far from the truth. This article was also not a procrastination from homework nor anything else you guys thought I was putting off.

    I am a blogger for the Niles West News. The articles I write are relatively based off of my opinions. I never have any intention to offend anyone. Thank you!

    • avatar

      While I agree that schoolwork can get out of hand at times and that students are often overly stressed, I don’t feel that your article provided any insight other than you and Jonass Platicis complaining about how much work you have. If you really feel like the workload of honors classes is too much for you then don’t take honors classes. It’s simple. The rest of us can handle it though.

      Also, I read your reply to comments on the story and I can’t believe that you thought this was a real “hot topic.” This is high school; there will always be kids who complain about how much homework they have. Just because you hear a lot of people talking about it doesn’t mean that it’s worth writing about. This is especially clear seeing that your article has no point.

      I think the issue of students being too stressed due to their schoolwork has potential to be a great story if you do it right. Unfortunately this story missed the mark.

      • someone understands !!!

        I agree with your article..not the above comment. I got to Beverly Hills High School – which is CLEARLY nowhere near you – and I’m an honors, AP, journalism, and sophomore student, yet I can still relate. I always find myself staying up extremely late to finish homework after I complete all my sports and extracurricular activities, but it just feels like the teachers don’t understand the fact that we have OTHER classes – not just their class. And there’s always this one week that comes up where you have a test/quiz/project in EVERY SINGLE CLASS…

        And really, the teachers need to stop making everything due on Thursday and Friday..please.

        But, I’ll be honest with myself – it’s a procrastination issue

  7. avatar

    At first I felt similarly to a lot of the other commenters on this thread who complain about you complaining. And they’re right to an extent. Maybe you should have finished the project (and the class, for that matter–it’s kind of unprofessional; could make things awkward) and reflected on it before denouncing it publicly. You’d also have a more mature view of it. But you have my sympathy in that I’m sure it is an extremely work-intensive project and those who have completed it and are now insisting that you should learn to manage your time better had probably experienced the same difficulty you did with it and are eager to flaunt the fact that they’ve completed it.

    Another place where you can take legitimate issue with your homework (but you don’t seem to do it in the article) is its outright banality. I don’t think that honors courses should require a student to take notes like in your Western Civ course. And being expected to write a chapter summary of each chapter in a book is childish. However, being a senior who has taken the most rigorous coursework possible every single year, I can say that junior and senior year are almost infinitely more difficult than freshman and sophomore year are, so you should be prepared.

  8. avatar
    Sydney Carton

    No one is saying that the project WASN’T “intellectually stimulating.” This was a very difficult book to understand and the purpose of the assignment was to help us understand the meaning. Ms. Swanson wanted us to do the questions and summaries for our own benefit. Why would she assign something that would take so long to grade (she has three classes of sophomores) if it wasn’t worthwhile?

  9. avatar
    Dustin "Too Dumb For Fancy Words" Easter

    How can you say that after several testimonials from people saying it aided them in their comprehension of the book? In order to gain a better understanding for something you need to reinforce what you have just learned or read. If a book is on the school’s curriculum, there must be something to be gained from it. By making you answer these questions and write these summaries a teacher is helping you to get the most out of it. Not all that you do in school is going to be a sudoku puzzle.

    • avatar

      If you read the posts, you would notice that only a few of the people who responded mentioned that it helped better their understanding of the novel. The majority of the comments referred to how Ms. Brill should manage her time or how the assignment shouldn’t take more than some arbitrary time period. I don’t understand your reference to “a sudoku puzzle.”

      It just concerns me that in an Honors level class, we don’t analyze the literature. Instead, we summarize it. My brother writes chapter summaries for school. He’s in 6th grade.

      fancy words girl

      • avatar

        As it was an extremely difficult book, which many students (HONORS students) had trouble understanding until at least halfway through, most students benefited from summarizing the chapters in order to get the most from the novel which, of course, is necessary before any evaluation can take place (which it did. Maybe you were unaware that what you were doing was analysis?) And to characterize this assignment as “intellectually unstimulating and wholly vacuous” seems incredibly ignorant of the process involved in education and disrespectful.

  10. avatar
    Au Contraire

    Perhaps, dear audience, procrastination is less of the issue here—what Ms. Brill is addressing, rather, is the issue of what we shall call “project quality.” The experienced Honors teacher may have given “fair warning,” but the blunder was in assigning a project aptly characterized as both intellectually unstimulating and wholly vacuous.

  11. avatar

    I got a 28% on this same project and you don’t see me writing mean things.

  12. avatar
    Former Swanson Student

    If I remember correctly, we had well over a month or two to complete this project. Although I procrastinated a bit, I was still able to finish the project in just a couple days AND get an A…so I do not know what you are complaining about. This assignment wasn’t exactly a walk in the park…but if you think that it is “rediculous,” then you are in for a rude awakening next year. I do not understand what you expect out of an honors class…

    P.S. Maybe instead of blogging 8 paragraphs about how much work you have to do still…you should actually try doing it. Just a piece of advice for ya.


    • avatar

      She writes for the Niles West News; that’s probably why she’s blogging. If you’re going to post comments, I advise you that you address the points mentioned in the article.

  13. avatar
    Rebecca Yun

    After reading this, I feel like I must contribute my input into this matter.

    I took honors bio my freshman year. As an eighth grader, my former teachers and I felt like I could handle the workload. Big mistake. I didn’t do so well in the class, mainly because I had learned basic biology in seventh grade and it wasn’t enough to prepare me for honors.

    At the end of the year, we had a project where we talked about personalized medicine. I can’t remember much because it’s been two years now and I honestly don’t remember anything for more than a year when it comes to assignments. I’ve never been much of a procrastinator, but I have my moments of laziness. Anyways, I had about two weeks to complete the assignment, and I did okay. It was the end of the year and all I wanted was to be done with freshman year, but at the same time I felt like I needed to try extra hard on the last project of the year.

    Although honors bio isn’t the same as honors English (which I almost took freshman year), the workloads are somewhat the same. As an honors student, you’re expected to know the curriculum and you’re also expected to be able to comprehend what you learned in a shorter time than students who take regular classes.

    I agree with you that a 245-point assignment might seem like much and that an hour of homework each night can be overwhelming for just one class. However, think about what other students might have to go through. Some students are in all honors classes and I don’t even want to know about how much homework they have…

    You also have to remember that it was mostly your decision to enroll into an honors class in the first place.

    So yeah, you have an understandable point, but just realize that writing a column complaining about an assignment won’t make it any better (especially when your teacher has access to such column).

  14. avatar

    EVERYONE complains about that project at the time. Trust me, you’re not the only one. But what you have yet to realize is how much it will help you in the years to come. If I did not have to do the Tale of Two Cities project, I know I would not have gotten out as much as I did from that book and it is something I will remember for a long time. As a sophomore, I doubt you have SO much homework that you cannot set aside half an hour at most (or the time you would spend on Facebook). If you think Ms. Swanson’s class was bad, next year will be a wake up call.

  15. avatar

    This project isn’t “ridiculous” this article is.
    In the time it took you to write this, you could have completed the work for three chapters of the book.

  16. avatar
    Dustin Easter

    I took Ms. Swanson’s class last year and the workload has been severely exaggerated. Ms. Swanson previewed the reading every day at the end of class, she discussed each chapter the day after they were assigned, and she was always in her office if you should ever have questions. Also, Western Civ outlines were assigned weekly at most, and you were given a whole week each time to do them. If this workload seems too much for anybody then perhaps they should take a class on time management.

  17. avatar

    I had Ms. Swanson last year and some of the things she makes you do is certainly a little out of the box. However, all these projects like the Tale of Two Cities teach you valuable lessons. Stop blogging about your problems and actually work on your homework now. One of these days you’ll appreciate Ms. Swanson for making you do bibliographies correctly and for getting the experience of a diverse range of projects.

    • avatar

      Right, because I can’t figure out how to navigate through an MLA citation guide.

      • avatar

        Obviously, if Ms. Swanson has to take so much time in class explaining how to cite correctly and still there are people who are clueless, then there must be a method to her madness.

  18. avatar
    Former Student

    It’s not going to get any easier from here! The whole project isn’t merely to test your comprehension of the novel, but to be RESPONSIBLE. Swanson doesn’t make you write 40 chapter summaries, answer over 100 questions, and draw the family tree at one time! Her students are suppose to work on the summaries and questions EACH NIGHT, for about fifteen minutes, to complete the assignment. Well, good luck next year.

  19. avatar

    As a former student, I put 10-20 minutes into this project a night last year, and I was finished well before the due date and I got an A on it.
    I just cant understand how if one kept up with the reading and writing it would take an hour a night for an honors student to complete the work…

  20. avatar

    just wait til next year LOL…

  21. avatar
    Sharon Swanson

    As the teacher who assigns this “ridiculous” project, and as someone who has taught honors classes for many, many years, I can tell you that a very important part of this assignment is time management, something at which all honors students need to become adept. Considering there is always MORE than fair warning (usually in the form of “Do not leave this for the last minute–PLEASE–you will not be able to do that and get a decent grade”), and considering that each chapter is gone over in detail during class–and again, considering that this is an honors class, and considering that it really shouldn’t take an hour each night to write a brief chapter summary and answer three or four questions–I don’t think that this is, in fact, ridiculous…

    • avatar
      One of your students who don't want to be on your hate list

      I didn’t think that the project was ridiculous, but I did think it was very stressful. It did take an hour to complete, sometimes even more, ask any of your students. With a bunch of homework on my plate, I was left with no other choice than to skip it or finish it at 4 in the morning. Even though we discuss it the next day in school, we still need to know most of the answers to the questions because you gave us pop quizzes with those questions. I was sleep deprived the whole time we were learning about the book. I also fell asleep in my other classes and didn’t have enough energy pay attention. I’m glad I got an A on it though,

    • avatar
      Aleksandr Krapivkin

      I stumbled upon this by complete accident but Breana, I must argue with you that this is not ridiculous at all. Without the education that I received in the honors classes that I have taken at Niles West, I would be nowhere as ready as I was for college. I also took Ms. Swanson’s class and I believe she does a very fine job of preparing you for what is to come in the next two years if you continue down the honors English path. I will also go ahead and say that I got really great grades in my first semester of college and that would not have been possible if it wasn’t for all I have learned at NW. Ms. Swanson was a very big contributor to this and if it wasn’t for all the work I had to learn how to manage doing, I would have been at a loss last semester. Don’t look at your honors classes as something you have to “stick out” but rather as something that will be very beneficial for your future successes.

    • avatar

      I do not think that the workload of this project was ridiculous. I admit that I did not do the project the way I was supposed to; if one were to do it the way Ms. Swanson wanted us to, the project could have been very reasonable and it would not have taken 45 minutes a night to write a paragraph and answer a few questions. If you procrastinate, it is not the teachers fault and you should have to suffer the consequences.

    • avatar

      As someone who struggles with time management, I completely agree with Ms. Swanson. The issue here is that the people complaining about this type of project are trying to avoid confronting this problem by putting the blame on the teachers. I could go on all day about McDonald’s making me fat, but the fact of the matter is that I made a conscious choice to eat it. If you really can’t handle the workload, drop. They are called honors classes for a reason. If you think that the bar is set too high, I would disagree with you still. Take a look at any college level course, including the AP classes at NW, and you will see that the difficulty level is actually very well distributed among the different grade weights.


Breana has been writing for the NWN since her freshmen year. She’s also on the debate team and participates in the freshman mentoring program. Breana is also a reporter for The Mash. When she does find some free time, she enjoys reading books, listening to music, and watching Netflix.


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