Father – how did you get this solution?
Boy – I am not sure…
Father – Well, if you don’t know it is not right! Erase it properly and do it again.
Boy starts to erase the page…
Father – Now how are you doing this problem?
Boy starts to explain how he has been taught but is interrupted.
Father – That is not the correct way, why can’t you understand that! That is not how you do it.
Boys’ shoulders visibly slump.
Father – You need to get this done right now and do it right or we will erase it again.
As I sat there, horrified at this exchange, I almost jumped in and offered my help. But I didn’t because it wasn’t my place. Yet in my head I could not help but go there. How do parents expect us to teach a child to love math when this is how they help with homework? Obviously this father was frustrated, it was a Sunday evening and they were traveling, so that time was not the best to do anything that required brain power for the boy or for the father. Why do it in public like that? Why humiliate your own child with a raised voice? The effect on the child were immediate and very apparent. That child did not want to do his math anymore, he did not want to learn the method the father wanted to teach him. That child lost a little more faith in his education and I wonder how he felt? I felt horrible for him and I felt bad for that child’s teacher who had no idea that this boy had struggled with the math and that his father had helped him in such a way.
We do not always see the damage that homework creates outside of our room, or how well-meaning “helpers’ distribute their knowledge. All we see is how it affects the child in the long-run, how their love of learning diminishes and we wonder what we could have done differently? Well sometimes not assigning the homework is a huge step in the right direction.