From Mundane to Mindful: Reinventing Homeroom Engagement

Students share their thoughts and opinions on homeroom activities.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Every month after third period, students meet during homeroom; when teachers are not handing out MetroCards or giving announcements, the purpose of these homerooms is to allow students to participate in certain mental health or community-building activities. Some students find homeroom activities to be useful, while others use the time to do other work. Much of the time, students don’t partake in the activities and end up scrolling through their phones, talking to friends, or completing homework. 

Many students express that while homeroom can be a useful time to simply relax or complete work, the activities they are ultimately made for do not pique their interest. Many of these activities are geared towards students’ mental health, and most of the time, they are worksheets that end up in the recycling bin by the end of the period. “I understand that the homeroom activities are made with good intentions, but overall they range from boring to annoying in how students respond to them,” junior Marzuk Rashid shared in an email interview. “I’d rather not do icebreakers with people I’ve known for three years when I could simply be talking to them about their day.”

Many of the activities done in homeroom are focused on mental health and relieving the stress that many students at Stuy go through daily. The guidance department at Stuy usually brainstorms the activities for students. For the freshman classes, the Big Sib Chairs have meetings to discuss specific activities, which they later share with the guidance department. However, many find that the efforts to alleviate mental stress are not effective. “I don’t think they are beneficial to students, as they usually provide surface-level ‘help.’ No one has the energy or desire to really connect with the activities and just take time away from a potential break,” Rashid said.

Others also share that many students end up on their devices without giving the activities any thought. “I think they’re beneficial for students, but only if the students take advantage of them. A lot of the time, students just go on their phones or do their work,” junior Filie Chen shared. 

The homeroom handouts can also seem to be out of touch with student life. “I remember some handout about where we see ourselves in a few years that we were asked to fill in,” Rashid said. “As far as I could tell barely anyone filled it in, and those that did gave vague, or sometimes nonsensical answers. Most of us have no idea where we’ll be in four years, let alone 15. To try to answer that in the time allotted seems futile.”

On the other hand, some appreciated certain activities for fostering friendship and community. Junior David Paul recalled an activity where he answered questions about his goals for the school year: “I think one of the questions was, “Who are my friends now?” [...] It was fun to say, “Oh, you’re my friend,” stuff like that. It was kind of like a cute little thing,” Paul shared.

Junior Jennifer Ng shared similar experiences. “[We were] writing a letter to our future selves. And since there was one at the beginning of the year, you could really see how you progressed and if the things you send the letter to yourself actually came true,” she said. Often, homeroom activities allowed for a greater sense of self-reflection among students.

To create homeroom activities that will appeal to students, the school administration and the Student Union can build more communication between themselves and the student body. “They can try to listen to students, gathering suggestions on new activities or things to improve on. They can even get teacher feedback on how best to engage with the students,” Rashid said. 

Many students express that clear communication between students and faculty would allow for activities that ultimately pique students’ interests. “I feel like a good way to [get more engagement] would just be to, like, get students’ input on what they would want to do specifically in homeroom. So even if it might mean [a] shift away from the current things that they're doing like those papers or activities, they should give us [...] an open space where we can just do whatever we want, which is already kind of happening,” Paul expressed.

Others have expressed that the current homeroom activities can still take place, but it would be more worthwhile to do so in other forms and settings. “I think they could also be replaced by other alternatives that don't involve going out of class for 20 minutes,” Ng expressed. “It could be sent in, I guess, the weekly emails or something. I just don't really see a special time set aside just for doing a few worksheets.”

Despite the grievances against homeroom and its activities, students still feel that it has an integral role within Stuyvesant. To ensure that homerooms are productive and effectively engage students, student input and opinion are necessary. Perhaps through questionnaires, weekly emails, or other opportunities, the administration can better acknowledge the needs and interests of the students of Stuyvesant. Then, homeroom will foster the supportive, empowering community it was intended to bring.