Tuesday, January 13, 2009
The Case Against Homework
It always seems like things in education wax and wane; my parents always comment, "Oh, we did that like 10 year ago! And this guy is calling it something new?" From the best teaching practices to teaching character education, it is apparent that ideas are recycled in this field and re-packaged in some bright and shiny new label.
An article I came across today is about how parents feel that their children are being assigned too much homework. Remember how when we were kids, homework was expected every night? It was as if homework was just part of education - it's like peanut butter to jelly.
Let me set this straight: I do not disagree with homework. But I do disagree with assigning homework for the sake of having kids do work that is not relevant to the current topic of study (i.e. busy work). I am all for homework that allows kids to practice concepts or to research topics more in depth. I am not one of those teachers who assigns much homework, and it's for a couple of reasons:
1. Most of the time, I doubt many of my parents would understand what we are currently studying. So if a kid is struggling with the homework, who can he go to for support? Ok, so if that's not a good enough reason, I have a handful of kids who live in single-parent homes with parents that work night jobs - so NO ONE is home to get them to even do their homework, let alone help them.
2. I only assign homework if it is meaningful. Memorizing vocab words is not an efficient way for my students to learn science. I will assign homework if it is to practice a concept (example: punnett squares or calculating physics problems) or to research a topic for a class discussion (example: to collect data on global warming to discuss IF it is actually happening and what can we do about it).
3. These kids are in my class, right now. They are not yet in high school. Period. I don't care if they are expected to read 100 pages of textbook a night while in high school. I am not going to do something purely because some crummy high school teacher ONLY assigns textbook reading and worksheets (as opposed to actually teaching the kids or conducting hands-on activities). Why should I deprive your student of a memorable experience simply because a few high school teachers are lazy?
Note - I know that there are these same type of teachers regardless of grade level everywhere. I am only using high school as an example because that is the argument I receive from parents being a middle school teacher.
4. Kids are kids and they need time to be kids. I feel like more than ever, students are expected to not only be a 4.0 student, but they also need to be a starter on the basketball team and first chair in the school orchestra. Kids need time to play with their friends, to enjoy their life, because they are going to grow up fast enough. I want kids to enjoy their childhood, not resent it.
5. Extra homework does not mean challenging a student. Please refer to #2.
The reason I am writing about this topic is because I can distinctly remember a conversation I had with a parent at open-house. She was upset that I do not use the textbook enough and that I do not assign homework enough. I think I was professional (as least I hope so), but I just had enough of parents riding me about how I needed to "challenge" their kids with more homework. I responded to her pressing query with, "I don't think it is my job to prepare your child for bad teachers."
So if you are interested in reading this article that I am referring to, please click HERE.