|Mathematics homework (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
“….I worry about your students next year, I don’t think they will be ready…”. My heart is pounding so hard it sounds like a truck, I can feel my checks blazing, my hands are clenching. She worries? About my students? About those kids that I have poured everything into? Those kids that have set higher expectations for themselves than any other grade I have taught? Those kids that demand a better education, a deeper discussion, a better understanding of what we do and why we do it. This teacher worries about my kids? My ears fail to listen and I feel the need to explain myself, to defend and argue but instead I raise my gaze and ask simply, “Why?” The answer is swift, “You don’t have any homework…” I wait, what else, but there is just silence. Homework and not giving it once again the center of a discussion.
So what is it about homework and whether to assign it or not that becomes such a flashpoint in education? Both sides are passionate in their reasoning for or against but the discussion seems to happen more outside of our schools than in them, not amongst colleagues. This teacher had decided, without speaking to me, that since I did not assign homework, students were not held responsible for their learning. Students were not held accountable for showing what they knew and I had no idea of how to challenge them. This was not a fair assessment by any means but still the one that had been made. So when others are misinformed about what a “no homework” classroom really is like, is it up to us to reach out and educate? Or should we expect them to come to us to become informed before they pass their judgment?
We may have all of the answers ourselves but how do we communicate them to other staff? How do we make others realize that there is a way to still deeply teach something without assigning outside of school work? How do we help others realize that homework does not have to be an integral part of what school is and that children will still be prepared for what is to come? Are we only fooling ourselves when we do boast that we are still creating responsible, accountable, time managing students without the use of homework? Can we truly not prepare students for the “rigors” of school if we do not do what others around us do? Can my fifth graders still be succesful in middle school even though I did not expect them to do two hours of work every night? Have I fooled myself into thinking that I am helping them become deeper thinkers when all I am really doing is robbing them of their chance for success? Was that teacher right? Should I be worried about my students?