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?