Friday, February 8, 2013

Homework.... a NECESSARY evil... and a PEP TALK

Homework is evil.  You have to assign something...make copies... only for students to lose it... or not do it... or only put 5 seconds worth of effort into the assignment... then you have to check... who did what... who did NOT do it... track who does and doesn't do it consistently (see homework binder post)... somehow give a consequence to those who did not do the homework... check it the next day.... did I already say check the homework??? Writing all this makes me want to run for the hills.  I'm sure you're thinking of leaving this post. Please don't.

But homework is beyond necessary.  Education is pushing "college readiness," into each and every classroom.  The best way for students to become ready for college is to become great at time management.  If we, as teachers, do not give homework (aka: opportunities to become time managers), how can we expect students to be ready for high school, much less college? 

I know the questions and concerns.  The reasons as to not give homework beyond the list written in the 1st paragraph
  • What about help at home?  Too much help?  Not enough?
  • What if the parents teach them a different way?  I'd rather the students not be confused.
  • I hate grading/ checking homework!
  • I don't have enough copies/textbooks to send home.
  • _____________________ insert reason here.
I know. I've been there too.  I have not given homework for many reasons.  However, I started questioning why do we give homework beyond the generic answer of  "practice".  Practice what?  Math problems? Reading strategies?  What are we really wanting students to practice in the long run? Then I asked myself a question:
 "How did homework help me?"

That question is what made me view homework in  a different light.  Yes.   I was that weird kid who forced her brothers to play school rather than house or dolls.  I had cut out hearts on my wall with "I love school."  Yeah.  I know. Being a teacher was a calling on my life from a young age.  I grew up in suburbia in a school district that I was blessed beyond belief to learn in.  Even so, I recall having homework EVERY night.  EVERY. NIGHT. For at least 1-2 hours. By the time I was in high school, I was making straight A's and traveling with the varsity basketball 2-3 times per week and still had to complete homework.  In college, I took 15-18 hours per semester and made great grades without feeling stressed and yes... I did have a nice social life.  In the summer, I took 18 hours and worked full time so I could move off campus.  I am not trying to boast, but I am saying this to support the fact that having a steady homework routine.... time management.... high school and college were a breeze.  A nice spring breeze, that I miss all the time.  Ahhhhhh....

However...the homework routine started in elementary school.

In today's society, in the 3 different school districts I have worked for, homework is nothing compared to "back in my day" (I don't think I am that old... and I never thought I would use the term "back in my day" at the age of 31....ugh).  My first year teaching,  a grade level teacher I worked with told me she never sent math homework home because there weren't enough consistent parents to help.  Kids would fall behind and be ashamed the next day for not doing their homework, so she didn't assign it.

I understand all that and I am sorry I am kinda venting.   I love my blog readers. 

However, when are we going to place the responsibility in the student's hands?  When does learning become their responsibility and not the parents?  It takes forever for habits to form, and it is much easier at a young age when routines can be put into place.  It's much harder to start a homework routine at the age of 12... now they are involved in a million other things.  But if we as teachers never send homework, or give time in class for them to do it instead of at home, how can we expect students to learn how to study at home on their own, or do their assignments?  How are we creating life-long learners if we cant teach them how to teach themselves at home?

I told my students this week that I was doing them a disservice.  I wasn't giving them the opportunities to become good time managers.  I wasn't giving them the opportunity to become responsible and learn how to balance their tasks.  I don't want them to think of me as being mean by assigning more homework, but I don't want them to ever think that they can do everything at school or at their job.  They have to spend time outside of their job in order to become really great at it. 

In the words of Kid President..."This is our time... We were made to be awesome... Let's get out there.... It's everybody's duty to give the world a reason to dance."

Teachers help make the students become awesome.... we just have to give them the opportunity. 


  1. I love this post. I teach 6th grade Math and we have no choice but to give HW. We keep it short and simple, but it is like pulling teeth. I use your No Homework Binder and that has been very helpful. I also had to start assigning Saturday School for those not doing it. That motivated them to do it or at least bring it to class. They still have to sign the binder, but at least they have it to go over it with us. We go over it each day. It is fast and furious, but it is a MUST. I tell my kids daily, they have to start being responsible and accepting that school is their "job".

    Hodges Herald

  2. Love your reasoning for homework! I'm trying to hole students more responsible for their own learning as well. I teach math and whenever anyone asks "when will I use this?" they get the same answer. They know it so well they answer each other now :) I tell them they probably won't use a lot of it, and will forget a lot of it - but they will know how to figure it out again if they ever need to. They'll know how to solve problems. They will know how to think critically. They'll know how to keep going with things are hard.

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