exploration, feedback, no homework, parents

Can We Prepare Students for Middle School If We Don’t Assign Homework?

I wonder if my child will be overwhelmed in middle school by all of the homework since they have not had much with you… The comment stares me in the face and I immediately think up excuses; but we had homework, we just did it in class, but it is not my problem what happens in middle school, and why didn’t this parent bring it up before? And then I pause, re-read the comment, take away the personal insult I had added to it and see it as feedback, see it for what it truly is; a learning opportunity. 

Homework, that integral part of going to school, that bastion of what afternoons should be consumed by, how school should look. We grew up with it, we survived, we learned the lessons and now our children should go through the same. I used to believe that home work taught a deeper lesson, that without it children would not learn lessons such as time management, responsibility, accountability. I used to believe that if a child did not do their homework then they were not taking school seriously, that the failure to complete their end of the deal exonerated me from any further responsibility. Really all I had to then was punish and move on, hope the kid got the homework done and understood the bigger lesson. And now I know how wrong I was in those beliefs. I know how homework became something expected but not contemplated. and yet how do you communicate that to those kids it affects? How do you effectively have parents place their faith in you when how you run your classroom is pretty different than what they ever tried?

So for next school year I will not just mention my homework policy. I will thoroughly explain it and also stress that it is not that my students do less work than the other fifth grade classes, it is just that they do it at school instead. It is just that they may not get worksheets but rather delve deeper into projects, dedicating class time to learn those same lessons of accountability, responsibility, and time management. I will leave the doors for discussion open and encourage the questions, not afraid of criticism but welcoming the process, carefully explaining why I make the choices I make and how the students will indeed be prepared for middle school.

And so I continue to read through the feedback and I stumble upon one that is just as unexpected, just as deep… “I wish I had had a teacher like you in school, I am sure I would have liked school more if I had…”. And I smile and I reflect and I am grateful for all those that took the time to tell me how they felt.

We only grow when we open up to the good and the bad, we only grow when we realize our own imperfection. We only grow when we reveal our vulnerability and then really listen, I would not want it any other way.

2 thoughts on “Can We Prepare Students for Middle School If We Don’t Assign Homework?”

  1. Pernille,As a fifth grade teacher that's a question I'm often thinking about. During fall conferences I get a lot of questions like, "There will be more homework, right?" or "How much homework will they have in middle school?". So often we are thinking about "the next step" for our kids and not focusing on where they're at and how we can help them grow and learn right now. I have also wondered about about trying to be more clear about my homework policy at the beginning of the year. I'll be interested to see how you address this next year, if you do. Thanks for starting the discussion.

  2. Thanks Pernille – have been speaking with @gcouros lately about the importance of starting with the "why". Often we make changes because research and our gut tells us it is the right thing but we fail to ensure there is understanding of the "why". When making changes, we need to bring parents along with us and focusing on the deeper reasons behind the change will ensure that there is a better understanding, not all will agree, but hopefully more will understand. Thanks for the reflectin and well done to take this as feedback.

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