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Why I Changed My Mind About Homework


When I started my teaching journey I was dead against homework. I didn’t see the value of prescribing work at the end of a long school day. I preferred to let my students take on after-school activities like sports and dance and hoped that the extra time could be used to help with chores and spending quality time with the family. I also felt that homework was a common cause of friction in a family. Homework tends to be the subject of arguments between parents and their children. By avoiding homework, I had hoped that I could play my part in reducing tensions between my students and their parents.

And then I changed my mind.

It wasn’t a complete 180 degree turn. I have observed the myriad of arguments against homework, and as hypocritical as it sounds, I agree with nearly all of them.

Yet, I couldn’t help but change my position.

Two reasons triggered my change of heart:

1. I had noticed that children nowadays are involved with fewer after-school activities than ever before. In fact, many believe that children are less active now than they have ever been. Students seem to spend most of their after-school time glued to a screen. Many even eat dinner in front of a screen. From iPads to iPhones, laptops to television sets, children aren’t using their home time as effectively as I’d hoped. Of course some are, but most clearly aren’t. If my 10-15 minutes of homework a day is enough to break up a child’s daily screen time regimen, I can’t see that as a bad thing.

2. As much as I get a kick out of the classroom breakthroughs, there is nothing more satisfying than watching a child succeed on their own. Too much of the emphasis in teaching involves spoonfeeding the curriculum. The teacher is always there, always supporting , always guiding. Some children capatalise on this arrangement and defer every challenge back to the teacher. This is not altogether a bad thing. The child does progress that way. They do learn skills from the extra time with their classroom teacher. But what they don’t seem to learn is self sufficiency. They don’t learn how to do things on their own, think for themselves. Achievement is the greatest ingredient in developing a positive self-esteem. True achievement occurs when one works through a problem without any immediate help.

The trick then is too ensure that the child doesn’t run to their parents for assistance. That would defeat the whole entire purpose of homework. That’s why I administer homework with the following underlying principles:

  1. Homework should be revision.  It should not introduce a new concept or skill.  It should simply be a vehicle for students to demonstrate how well they understood what was covered in class that week.  If the child is bringing home work that was not introduced in class, I advise you to see the teacher.
  2. Most teachers give a few days to complete the homework.  I strongly urge my students to use night one to read over the homework and circle any question that they don’t understand.  Then, instead of approaching their parents, come see me the next day with anything that may have caused confusion.  Of course, I am not restricting the parents from helping their kids, I am merely offering my help as the first option.  In my opinion, parents have already spent most of their youth completing homework, they have paid their debt to education and should now be allowed to enjoy a homework-free life.
  3. When the student approaches the teacher early on about difficulties in the homework, they are showing a great deal of responsibility and assertiveness.  This isn’t lost on me.  So if the students maintain this sort of dialogue with me, extensions are likely to be given should they struggle to meet the deadline.
  4. My advice to parents when assisting their children through a homework task is patience and perspective.  Offer your services by all means, but ensure that their children are the ones that end up having ownership of their own work.  Kids are not proud of their parents homework, they are proud of their own achievements.  Whilst instilling independence and confidence in children may sometimes feel like an overwhelming proposition, the payoff is huge.  I would rather my students hand in a piece of homework that they took ownership of that was full of mistakes than a brilliant piece ultimately done by mum or dad.

It’s not that I disagree with the opponents of homework (in fact I agree with most of what they say), I just think that homework isn’t the evil some make it out to be.

Click on the link to read Leave Parents Alone When it Comes to Homework

Click on the link to read Parents Urged to do the Job of a Teacher

Click on the link to read This is What You Get for Doing Your Homework

Click on the link to read Experts Call For Homework to Be Abolished

Click on the link to read The Case in Favour of Homework

 

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4 Responses to “Why I Changed My Mind About Homework”

  1. Shel Says:

    As a parent, I applaud your homework principles, especially #2! I have no problem with my kids having homework, but I object when there are things that require our help so much that it cuts into our limited time. I wish more teachers felt like you do. Great post!

  2. Dr. Sayers Says:

    I really enjoy this blog. I would love to partner with more teachers like you. You might find these posts from my blog of interest:

    http://wkwutk.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/all-work-and-no-play/
    http://wkwutk.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/perfect-homework/

  3. Lynne Diligent Says:

    The only problem with number 2 (speaking as a parent and a teacher) is that most students, when given homework due the next day, don’t start it until the night before it’s due, and then don’t have that opportunity to ask questions!

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