Note: Some of my older posts did not survive the transfer from Blogger to WordPress, thus these are older posts that still bring up valid points.
As I prepared for my first orientation day powerpoint as a new teacher, I knew I had to fill in homework expectations and how much parents could count on. I was reminded to use the old formula 10 minutes times the grade of the child, excellent, 40 minutes of homework for a 4th grader. Now this is what my brain should have thought; “Wait a minute Pernille, 40 minutes of homework, a night? Plus 20 minutes of expected reading with parent initials? And a book report every 6 weeks? And math tests every 3? Not to mention science and social studies quizzes, which really are tests but just with a friendlier name. What in the world am I saying?” Except, I didn’t and the rest, as they say, is history. Those kids had homework coming out of both ears because that is what I thought teachers did; assign work. 40 minutes seemed fair and reasonable and why shouldn’t it be? Aren’t we in the business of making students accountable and responsible? Aren’t we teaching them how to be effective workers, preparing them for the real world?
Except homework is really not thoughtful when you just spew the formula. Homework then becomes the brainless act of repetition, not metacognition that we all should be striving for. Homework becomes the incessant chore we all seem so hellbent on making it. I know we are trying to raise responsible children, but is homework really the only way we can do this? Can we not accomplish those same goals of responsibility, time management, and work habits without the insane amount of homework? Can we, as educators, realize that perhaps we do not have the right to infringe on students’ lives outside of class up to an hour or more every night? Haven’t students already given us 7 to 8 hours of work?
I, for one, limit my homework giving and not because I am a hippie that doesn’t believe in hard work. We do work hard in my classroom, in fact, my students relish how much we get done in a day because it means they are managing their time. It means they are creating a work ethic that says give school your undivided attention for a whole day and you will be rewarded with free time. Do your job here right and then you don’t have to worry about it as much outside of school. And a formula can never encompass that.
So it is time we give up on the formula. It is time we realize that homework is not something we have to give just to give the kids work, that there are other ways to teach students motivation, time management, and effective work habits There are other ways to ensure all of the curriculum is covered and that knowledge is garnered.
This year, on the first day, I will tell the parents that there may be work outside of school and that it will differ from day to day. I will tell the parents that my mission is to keep work inside of my classroom so that the students may breathe a little bit. I will tell them there that will be projects, there will reading, sure, but there will also be time to be a kid, to live a little. No homework doesn’t mean no learning, it means school was kept at school and that is a good thing.