June 17, 2011

The Great Homework Debate

I saw a link from Scholastic to this article on my Facebook news feed yesterday.

As a teacher, I struggle with the "no homework" push.  Any teacher can tell you that even with homework, it's extremely difficult to even cover all of the concepts that are expected of us much less to ensure student mastery of each skill.  Do I think that students need to do a specified amount of homework for each class every night?  No.  But I do believe there are some good life-lessons that come from a little practice at home. 

For one, I have an issue with raising a generation of kids that believe they are "done" when that bell rings at 3:00, even if they didn't finish their work.  That simply doesn't apply to the real world.  Imagine if I walked out the door with my students after that bell and washed  my hands of all lesson planning that was incomplete for the following day! 

Furthermore, what does it teach them about using their time wisely while they're in class?  Certainly, anyone who has worked with children can tell you how quickly students would catch on to the fact that they could waste time in class and still have no consequence of homework on their own time.  

Finally, when I grew up, there was this motto I heard all the time: Practice makes perfect!  Do you think Michael Jordan simply walked away from each practice and refused to even think about the game until the next one?  Of course not!  That's not how you get to be the best!  And don't we want that for our children - for them to be the best they can be?

I don't assign a lot of homework in my classroom.  In fact, a student who uses his time wisely in my classroom will likely have no homework at all, aside from independent reading.  I think I do a pretty good job of assessing my class each day, and when I see that they need more time for a project, I extend deadlines to allow for that to be done in my classroom.  However, I have a few students who refuse to use their class time wisely, those that procrastinate on long-term assignments, are repeatedly absent, or are pulled out for music lessons.  I have to draw the line somewhere.  I don't think it's fair for me to hold up the rest of the class for those few students, so they will have to finish their work at home.  I don't think that's unreasonable.   

And yes, I recognize that my students have a lot going on outside of school, but I those are choices that families make.  If your child is involved in so many activities that he simply cannot complete a simple assignment, I think it's time for you, as a parent, to ask yourself if all of those commitments are really necessary. 

When I was a kid, homework was our first priority and then the fun.  I think we really need to question ourselves as a society when we start pushing for schools to cease all learning at 3:00 so little Johnny can go to football and guitar lessons and everything else under the sun.  Where are our priorities? 

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