being a teacher, homework, students

I Know Worksheets are Bad and Yet I Assigned One

There they lie; staring at me with their guilty weight of uselessness, reminding me how I made another mistake.  I thought I had them beat, that I had conquered the urge to assign them, and yet I slipped and now that pile of 32 math worksheets reminds me of why I gave up on them in the first place. I don’t know why I thought they would be a good idea, why I found them necessary that morning, but I did and now I have to come to term with what that means for me and for my students.  I know my good intentions of practice is hidden in there somewhere but I forgot to listen to my common sense, to look at my past mistakes, to think of the students.

We reach for worksheets when we want to make sure that students get something, when we want to have them practice, to secure a skill.  And yet who assigns worksheets with just a few problems?  After all, you want a lot of problems to make sure they really get it, that they will never forget.  So why didn’t I just assign them 5 problems to show me they knew, why the need for a double-sided sheet with 32 problems on it?  The time I must have robbed from my students outside life haunts me.

So I take my pride and put it aside and I realize I made a mistake.  Tomorrow I am going to have to tell the kids that, own it, and apologize.  It shows that i am still learning, that I make bad decisions too, I am nowhere near perfect as a teacher.  And I learn, I learn from my mistakes, from my good intentions gone bad.  I learn from the feedback of the students and I admit when I mess up.  That’s what makes us better teachers.  That’s what builds better classrooms.  Humility, humanity, and reflection.

14 thoughts on “I Know Worksheets are Bad and Yet I Assigned One”

  1. You are doing right by kids. That is all. Keep sharing your reflections and failures because they allow others to find that they are not alone in the quest for being the best they can be and not wanting to waste kids' time.

  2. Relax. The worksheet gives everyone a breather. Student fill in the responses (like standardized tests), and you get a few minutes to catch your breath. Maybe you don't even grade this one! Practice comes in all forms….worksheets included.

  3. Sorry… I still don't see the problem. 32 questions sounds like a lot, but the part about students needing practice is true. I don't think it's always possible to come up with a project that ties everything together and gives the required practice the students need. Unless you had some other motive for assigning 32 q's like getting a bunch of other work done then I don't think you need to worry.

  4. How does one get away from ever using them? Currently, my students use a Latin and editing sheet daily. The lower level stuff bothers me, but I'm not sure how to change it. Can you address that soon in a post? 🙂

  5. I think you're being too hard on yourself. Worksheets are necessary for math practice–the kids aren't just proving to you they know how to multiply, they're practicing it so they get faster. Real-world application and context are important…but you only get good with math facts when you do a lot of them, over and over.

  6. When we provide worksheets we do so because we (for whatever reason) have been time poor! A good teacher knows this. There is copious research which demonstrates how ineffective they are for all learners. Education has moved on significantly since the times of 'death by worksheet' and I sincerely hope that as a profession we can teach a lesson without the reliance of a photocopied sheet!

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