Be the change, curriculum, grades, homework

But We Worked So Hard On It…

Those words, uttered by a parent disagreeing with their child’s grade has made my hair bristle more than once. You worked hard on it, meaning you and your child? Wait a minute, this was not meant to be a parent and child homework assignment but rather a well thought out learning experience for your 4th grader. And yet, parents decide to help. At first, I thought it was because they were helicopter parents, obviously not having severed the proverbial umbilical chord, marching their child toward a successful life always monitored by the parent like a shadow. Then I thought the parents were suckers, after all, nothing can ruin a weekend more than a child whining that they don’t want to do their homework. Maybe these parents lacked self-control, discipline, dreams, a life? Maybe they just really wanted to re-do 4th grade curriculum because it was so much fun. Oh, those illusions kept me and my irritation going for two years.

This summer, on my Twitter revolution I started reading more about parent involvement, grades and their effect on classrooms, all posted by the formidable force that is Alfie Kohn. And yes, I had an epiphany, an ugly one; one that I hoped not to have, and yet it was so necessary. These parents, who obviously had to do the work with their children, did it because my assignment was too hard, too all-involving, too removed from learning and not based in real-life. So all that frustration should have been directed toward another source; myself. After all, the puppet-master of the homework strings is me.  So this year I am making a change:

  • I will not assign homework because I need something to add to my grades so that I can do a bigger average.
  • I will not assign homework because I was long winded and didn’t get to the point, leaving no work time.
  • I will not assign homework just because the book tells me that I should.
  • I will not assign homework because my team members assign this piece or someone else who has taught the same unit.
  • I will not assign homework because it is a long vacation and who knows what sort of trouble student’s need to be kept out of.
  • I will not assign homework because the learning did not happen in my classroom.
Instead, homework will be limited.  It will be re-evaluated and contained within my room as much as possible.  I am changing my grading system, more on that in another blog, and no longer feel the burden of needing enough things to grade so that I can fall back on it for my report cards.  My mantra for the year is “Authentic Learning” and with that comes the responsibility of teaching students within my room, within my time, within the standards, but also within their capabilities.  Learning has to be relatable for them for it to stick.  No more dull repetitious packets, no more book report dioramas, but rather conversation, blogging, hands on experience.  Maybe then those parents will find something else to do, something that they want to spend time on, and maybe I will finally get a clue.

So why do you assign homework?  How do you not assign homework?  


11 thoughts on “But We Worked So Hard On It…”

  1. We are a project based classroom. I don't officially assign homework. They have a due date for when it is to be complete. That due date is usually not created by me, but if we are creating something for someone else, or collaborating with someone, or will be performing for an audience it is am authentic deadline rather than a random due date. When they get the work done is up to them. I will have kids who will use every second of class and finish everything in class. I might also have kids who towards the end of a period might take out a book or start investigating a tangent because they would prefer to spend Saturday afternoon doing it by themselves at their house.When I did assign HW I used to call it homelearning. It keep me focused on why I was giving it, why they would be doing it. Who want to do homework right? But handing something out and saying this is what I want you to learn at home tonight brought a different perspective to it.

  2. You would have come to these decisions when little Ms. T started school because you would have seen how homework can ruin family life and the precious few hours/minutes that families have together. Thank you for listening to your parents. We all want what is best for the child/student, but we only have a limited view of this. Your parents obviously felt comfortable enough to speak to you about his and to advocate for their child. Good for them. You will have to do this as well someday. Great thoughts.

  3. Another excellent post! Last year, I came in partway through the year and tried to follow what the previous teacher did. This year, my plan is to have Math practice once/week, a reading assignment involving using some sort of reading strategy that has been taught once/week, and then reading twenty minutes each day.I do have to say though, that one of my favourite moments in school ocurred last year. I had taken the lead on a school wide Olympic project, and a child from another class (whom I had worked with the year before as a behaviour interventionist) created a bobsled, that was extremely well done and very well painted. It was obvious that this second grader had not done it herself, but that she had spent quality time with her parents working on this project. Her pride was well-deserved. This was one of few positive memories with her parents and so it was my pleasure to bring the project to the front of the school and show it off at our closing ceremonies. While I wouldn't do a project like that, which required parental involvement on a regular basis, I do think it can be a great way of getting parents involved with their children's education.

  4. Thank you for the fantastic comments, it is always great to hear other opinions and also what successes there are out there. Kristin – I think we have all been guilty of some of these at some point. It even appears as if it is passed on to us to do this by former teachers and during our student teaching. I was never aware of an alternative to homework, so don't feel bad, I have enough guilt for everyone.Ron – thank you for your comment as well. I agree that it is thinking about the "why"of the homework that can change our perspective.Paul – I love your idea of the project based classroom. Are you able to tie in most of your curriculum together this way? I always struggle with the separation of subjects but not sure how to mesh them together. I like your idea of home-learning, that way you remove the negative connotation that students have to the word "work" and remind them (and yourself) that it is for the purpose of learning.Susan – yes, I have a feeling that I would have come to the understanding of parents the moment Thea was old enough to drag home book report requirements. I am excited to share this with my parents and hope that they will like the idea as well. David – what a great moment for that little girl! And you are right, sometimes the experience that it creates with parents can be powerful, just not all the time. In social studies we do a heritage fair where they students put on a presentation, poster, and bring in food from their heritage. The parents love it because they explore with the kids. One of the best projects of the year!Your comments continue my thinking and also reaffirm that I am not the only one out there struggling with the concept of homework. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with me.

  5. That is very un-American of you to identify yourself as part of the HW problem. :)Best post on HW I have read in a long time and this is after a 2 year study on HW our school did. Will definitely share!

  6. Update: Just wanted to say that I am very close to taking the plunge of abolishing most grades in my classroom next year. This is an exciting journey, inspired by the amazing Jeremy @MrMacnology and Joe Bower @Joe_Bower. Once again, it shows the true power of a PLN. If you have questions about this please email me or tweet.

  7. I don't assign homework. The kids do. If a student has not completed an assignment to the best of their abilities in an appropriate amount of time, then they need to take it home and get it done.Another idea is that learning takes place everywhere. The school is only ONE place that learning should be encouraged. If there is a purpose and meaning to why a student needs to do "school work" outside of the classroom, then by all means let them. That is authentic learning. How can they learn to be life long learners if they think that it can only happen in a classroom. Anything worth learning is worth doing…anywhere.But I totally agree, it is "homework" when its used to pad grade books and averages.And Mrs Ripp, I think you're the first person to ever associate me with the word amazing. Thanks, but I probably shouldn't get too used to it ; )Change sometimes takes a little boat rocking. Don't be afraid to do what's best for your kiddos. I'm glad I can be a part of this discussion.

  8. This year I will try to implement words of the week, because I noticed last year that they students needed to enlarge their vocabulary. I'm an English teacher in a Swedish school, where I teach students the ages approx. 16-19 years of age. But these words are going to be made on our learning platform. Apart from that, also I tend to avoid homework.

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