Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Good homework advice

Dr. Kenneth Barish has written an excellent article on homework on the Oxford University Press blog. Click here to read "The battle over homework."

I posted the following comment on the blog:

This is extremely good advice and coincides quite well with what I say in my book, The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers.

The point I want to emphasize the most is “Set aside a specified and limited time for homework.” It is as important to let the child STOP doing homework as it is to have the child start doing homework. This is a difficult step for parents to take since they fear that incomplete homework with garner poor grades.

But Dr. Barish is 100% right in his contention that children do not learn much through homework battles, and most children will do more in a time-bound homework session than they will accomplish battling over homework all night long.

The only other comment I have is that Dr. Barish quips that if homework were banned, education would suffer and he might be out of clients. I agree that we are creating huge numbers of behavioral problems through our homework policy and that the need for child psychologists would be less if we banned homework. The other side of the statement that education would suffer is not completely supported by the research on homswork.

Anyway, thank you, Dr. Barish, for an excellent article.

Visit The Homewor Trap website

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Marijuana, brain development, and maybe even homework

This article showed up in this morning's New York Times. "Early Marijuana Use Linked to IQ Loss."

I do IQ tests every day in my practice as a clinical psychologist. Although I don't doubt the connection which is suggested here, I think homework policy actually poses an intervening factor. Here's the comment I submitted to the Times on this issue:

Marijuana may affect the developing brain but I would need to know more about this study to draw that conclusion. The standard IQ test has 10 subtests, 3 of which are directly related to “things learned in school,” and 3 of which have particular relevance to capitalizing on one’s intellect to succeed in school. These latter 3 have more relevance to homework than schoolwork, and there is a sequence in which bright children can succeed in school but cannot get their homework done, or done in a reasonable amount of time. This creates major problems for them in middle school and then, because of those troubles, they get separated from their natural peers. This increases the chance that they will get drawn to non-academic, drug-using crowds, and get turned off to school. I would need to know more about the specifics of this study but that sequence could have bearing on these results and have more to do with school, and in particular homework policy, than it just has to do with brain development. That said, I don’t doubt the stated conclusion that early use of marijuana could be detrimental to brain development. Kenneth Goldberg, Ph.D. The Homework Trap.

Visit The Homewor Trap website

Monday, August 27, 2012

Empowering Principals; Empowering Principles

Here is a link to an article I just read in Education Week, The Missing Piece in TeacherEvaluation Laws: Empowering Principals. I agree completely with this article. I think that organizational theory points strongly to the notion of managing through rational hierarchies.

Teachers report to principals, principals report to superintendents, and superintendents report to boards of education.  Power to make positive change lies in those lines of authority, not in outside mandates coming from state legislatures. I would suspect that most teachers would agree with Ms. Mead, the author of this article.

Now, here’s the rub. I wonder how many teachers understand that the principles of human behavior and organizations that apply here are universal. They apply to schools. They apply to businesses. And, they apply to the home. So what if we changed the title of this article to:

The Missing Piece in Homework Policy: Empowering Parents.

What do you think? Would teachers rally in droves around this notion and recognize that the evaluation of a child’s homework performance and the decisions that follow poor performance, must belong to the parents just as much as the process of evaluating teachers must also belong to the in-school hierarchy.

Visit The Homewor Trap website

Homework for Children with ADHD

I have sometimes mentioned that homework reform is particularly important for children with ADHD. I address it as a particular issue in my book, The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents,Students and Teachers, with the recommendation that children with ADHD may need more time for their assignments at school, but less work for their assignments at home, i.e. homework.

Today, I ran across an article, Surefire Strategies That Don’tWork for ADHD – And Some That Do, that is worth reading and highlights this point. Among the author’s strategies that do not work are criticizing, conforming, and working harder.

Constant homework pressure is tantamount to giving the child ongoing criticisms throughout the course of his educational days. This is true even when the feedback is given with a smile and under the guise that we are trying to help the child.

Homework policies that demand that all children complete all the work, the same work as other children without modification, is essentially a demand for conformity.

Working harder, is of course, the mantra of teachers, “if he only tried harder, he would be an A student.”

I understand that teachers may find it difficult to individually modify every student’s assignments as they try to do their best to teach the whole group. But, individual modifications can be made through a 504, and, even without a 504, a policy that redefined homework from an assignment based to a time based session would go far in resolving this issue.

Visit The Homewor Trap website

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Homework advice columns and parenting authority

I like what Dr. Edwards says at the end of his article that is reported in US News Health Report, Making Parental Peace with Kids’Homework, “School is important but so is the relationship you have with your child. Don't let homework become an issue that harms that relationship,” but think that there is a missing step between his advice and this recommendation that needs to be considered. His advice involves good, standard-fare pointers about what to do in the home: Find a good spot to do homework, pick a regular homework time, help the child develop a homework strategy, help the child address assignments one at a time, and provide support without hovering unnecessarily. The advice includes instilling good habits like writing assignments down in well-organized homework assignment books. Great if it works, but what if it does not?

The missing piece is the need for the parents to have full ownership of the home. As long as teachers have the final say about what has to be done in the home, we have a problem. Consider how teachers relate to each other. Does the math teacher tell the gym teacher how to address the child who is not able to do a somersault? Does the English teacher tell the math teacher what to do with the child who was given a worksheet to complete in class and was only able to get half of it done in the allotted time? The answer is no. Teachers respect the decisions and individual integrity of their colleagues in making those decisions. But if you follow Dr. Edwards’ good advice and your child gets half of the work done in what you consider a reasonable homework session for your child’s age, who, at that point, makes the decision about how he’ll get graded and whether the work must get done?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Time Bound Homework

I am writing this brief note to give my thumbs up to Mr. Orsini, principal of Ridgewood's Benjamin Franklin Middle School for adopting a time based approach to homework. His approach is mentioned in a recent article, The Burden of Homework: Stressed for Success.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Parent Teacher Contracts

On Tuesday, August 21, a parent posted a contract on the Stop Homework Facebook page that he was given by his child’s teacher. It was posted as a voluntary contract, although it is hard to imagine that many parents are sitting back pondering whether or not to agree to its terms.  The parent who posted this contract viewed it as arrogant, and I totally agree.  Among the terms, the contract asked the parent to provide a good space for the child to do the homework, to limit television and video game time, to check homework regularly, and so forth. The parent, understandably indicated he would not sign the contract.

Although I support the parent totally for making this decision, I have another thought. What about signing the contract and stapling a “voluntary contract” for the teacher to sign and return to the parent. And since situations like this are probably going on throughout the country, why don’t we create a sample, voluntary contract for parents to return to the teachers with the contracts they sign.

I’m going to take the liberty of composing my own such contract. Feel free to cut and paste it into your own contract. I also invite anyone to leave a comment with important terms they think I might have been left out. Perhaps, we can collectively create a standard contract for teachers to sign. Instead of calling it arrogance, let’s  give teachers the benefit of the doubt, and view this contract as the first step in a dialogue between parents and teachers.

Here are the terms I would most like to see in the contract:

I, teacher for ______________________ have read and agree to abide by the following:

1.       I will only assign homework that is important and meaningful for the educational process.

2.      I recognize that the parents are the rightful heads of the home and that my homework assignments are made with their tacit permission, permission they can withdraw.

3.      If educational problems arise, I will meet with the parents to address those problems with the understanding that I am the head of the parent-teacher team for matters going on at school (i.e. classwork and classroom behavior) and that the parent is the head of the parent-teacher team for matters going on at home (i.e. homework).

4.      I affirm that I am familiar with the homework research and debate and will take that into account when assigning homework.  If I am not familiar with the research and debate, I promise to become familiar with it during the coming year.


Signature of Teacher ____________________________________Date__________________________

Less homework means more learning

Today’s featured items from the news is an article by Anne Michaud, “Less is more when it comes to homework.” The article highlights information that those of us who have been following the homework debate know so well. The more voices sharing this message the better.

Michaud speaks in terms of public policy. As I’ve mentioned before, it is hard to find consensus among parents and teachers in the publicdebate because everyone has a different point of view. But the principles that Michaud highlights are still true, regardless of what the teacher assigns and regardless of what the school’s policies allow.

So I encourage all parents to take charge of their ownhomes, and make sure that they make their own decisions about how much homework their children are allowed to do.

This will play out differently in elementary, middle, and high school. In elementary school, for sure, you are the one in charge. In middle school, you need a method to balance the complex demands that are coming in on your child from multiple teachers. By high school, it will be harder to take control and your child is at a point where he needs to fend for himself. You may also get confronted by choices between the more advanced classes your child may qualify for, where it would be hard to say no to homework demands, and more mainstream classes where there might be homework relief but at the cost of the college preparatory classes your child needs.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Homework Trap in the News

Here is a link to an interview that was published yesterday about The Homework Trap in She The other day, there was an article about The Homework Trap on East Bay Homework addressing The Myth of Motivation.

Don't forget to contact your child's new teacher at the start of the year if homework has been a problem. Here is a sample email to use.

Contact me by email if I can be of further help preparing for the new school year.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Responsibility and Authority

Here is an interesting article, Homework: Whose Responsibility is It? I’d like to suggest another concept, Homework: Whose Authority is It?

The writer makes good points about the child taking responsibility for his own work even at the risk of not passing. But I think that point depends on different issues, the particular child, the child’s age, and other aspects of the situation. We parents raise our children from birth until adulthood. Children change dramatically over those years and it is not always an easy task to adjust and make changes in how much responsibility we take for our children’s well-being. An infant depends on us for survival. A high school student needs to make choices for himself. The child goes through different stages and how much we should protect and how much we should let the child figure it out for himself keeps changing. It is not always easy to know. Yet, the author here that children need to learn responsibility and parents sometimes need to let them fend for themselves.

But there is another issue which is not just the child’s responsibility to the teacher, but the teacher’s authority over the home. Home and school are different environments and with homework we make the tacit assumption that the teacher has near carte blanche to decide what will happen in your home at night. Where did the teacher get that authority and what are the parents’ options if the decisions that teachers make do not work in the home.

As a parent of three, grown children, I went into parenting with the assumption that I would support the school. Teachers had the authority, with my unspoken permission, to give assignments to my children. Nothing ever happened with my oldest two children that would have put me in a position of challenging their decisions. There were some moments of homework stress, but that was not enough for me to pull the authority card.

Then with my youngest child, things were different. The problems were severe and there were real reasons why we needed to modify and reduce the assignments. With that, I got confronted with the fact that I lacked the authority to make the final decisions in my home without the threat of serious consequences to my child.

We need to understand that homework traverses the boundaries between home and school, and that it is irrational to assume that teachers have the right to overstep those boundaries without the parents’ agreement. Most parents will give support if there are no problems.

I think we can oversimplify the situation by assuming that the child must simply take responsibility for his work. Yes, I think that by the time the child hits upper grades, particularly if that child has some choices between regular classes and advanced classes, the young person approaching adulthood has to deal directly with the teachers he has. But in the end, children, at least at the elementary school and middle school levels, depend on their parents to have the final say. I think many parents end up covering for their children, not because it is their desire to not hold their children responsible, but because they have been rendered helpless and feel there is little else they can do.

Although I will not discuss motivation in this particular post, I noted that the author operates under the assumption that homework noncompliance is a motivational issue. Here is a link to an article I wrote on The Myth of Motivation.


See sample email to send to your child's teacher.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Recommended homework email

If your child had difficulties with homework last year, I am recommending that you cut and paste the following text into an email and send it to your child's teacher. Enter the appropriate names where there is capitalized text. I hope this helps. Good luck with your efforts and feel free to contact me if I can be of further help.

Last year, homework proved a challenging experience for CHILD’S NAME and our entire family. There was very little gained, educationally or emotionally, from the efforts we made.

In researching the topic, I have come across a model that I believe will work. I would appreciate it if you would take a moment and follow this link, Please read the section, The Homework Trap: A Model for Change. I would like to use that as a basis for our next discussion.



Sunday, August 19, 2012

Three articles on education

In today’s papers, there are three articles worth reading. In the New York Times, Frank Bruni writes on, Teacher’s on the Defensive and Bronwen Hruska writes on Raising theRitalin Generation. In her Washington Post blog, Valerie Strauss writes on OnObama’s Call to States to Save Teacher’s Jobs. All three articles are addressing today’s crisis in education from different points of view (note that the article on Ritalin starts with the fact that the original recommendation for medication came from the school).

The issues involved in these three articles are complicated, but the consistent theme is a relationship between society and its teachers which has gone awry with each placing blame on the other in some way. Society has its ills and they go beyond education. We have a nightmare of disparity in educational opportunities that coincides with huge differences between the rich and the poor. This widespread unfairness causes parents to compete with each other to get their kids the schooling they need. When I was a child, there were parents who sent their kids to parochial schools, for religious reasons, not because they did not believe that the public schools could teach their children.

We have a massive drug problem and an incarceration rate that is so high that inner city parents are desperate to get their children into schools that are not just good, but where their kids might survive. For them statistics about how charter schools mount up against public schools are secondary to the hope that their children will be protected from the violence on the streets.

So what can be done? It’s complicated and goes beyond any simple solution. But for starters, we need to diminish the over dependence teachers have placed on homework as a way to teach kids. Surely, trained teachers are more than capable of teaching children in the 6 ½ hours they have them in class. They do not need to waste their time grading assignments, punishing children, conferencing with parents, and recommending medication all in an effort to get control over things they don’t really have control of.

I have rarely heard of parent/teacher conflicts arising out what is actually taught in school. These conflicts typically develop over what the child is doing in the home, and whether the parent is doing enough to make sure it gets done. It becomes the fuel for fire in conflicts between teachers and parents, unnecessary fuel that diminishes education.

I have read heartwarming accounts of progressive schools for inner city children, largely because the principal and the faculty have learned that they can work directly with the kids without getting overwrought about what happens in the home. It’s not that these kids don’t have caring and loving parents. Rather, it’s that their parents are stressed out enough making ends meet, and need to know they are in charge of their homes and don’t come back from their efforts to support their children to assignments they cannot modify if they choose. Teachers would gain greatly if they gave up authority for things that are truly out of their control. They would be happier. They would be more effective. And they would end up retaining the ones that are really good. And even the weaker teachers, the ones that are good enough, would also rise to the top and show that people can be skilled professionals, even if they are not the mavens of their field, if they work in environments which gives them the support they need.

Seeking less control often paradoxically gives a person more control. Teaches can achieve this, in part, by reducing their expectations about what happens in the home.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

LAUSD Homework Policy Revisited

Thursday, I mentioned on Facebook that I had been alarmed that LAUSD was opting for “tougher homework,” as reported in the Los Angeles Daily News after it had made national news for its progressive effort to keep homework weighting down to 10% of the grade.

The community had been up in arms and I had responded during the debate with an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Daily News explaining why I thought it would be difficult to come to consensus. The article in the Daily News did not explain clearly what it meant by tougher homework standards and I was not sure what that meant.

A follower of my Homework Trap Facebook page directed me to an editorial in the LosAngeles Times that spoke to this issue. The editorial actually preceded my op-ed piece and it appears possible that by “tougher,” the LA Daily News really meant tougher than the original proposal, not necessarily tougher than what was in place before. If that is the case, it is a relief.

Now, here are a few thoughts about the Los Angeles Times editorial:

1.      The editorial talks about 20% being a fair weighting for homework. Given that homework can garner zeros much more readily than schoolwork, and that, except for high school students who choose to take advanced classes, there is no reason any student should be doing up to 20% of his total homework/classroom time on homework, it is quite excessive. Ten percent is simply a more reasonable number.

2.      Students who are motivated and who can do the homework will remain motivated regardless of the weighting, 10 or 20%. In the younger (elementary for sure, middle school to a large extent) grades, harsh homework penalties are parent motivators more than student motivator, and often push parents into frenzied states and into making irrational, rather than effective decisions.

3.      The LA Times suggests that the 10% homework policy might be demeaning to disadvantaged and minority students. This is absolutely absurd. Homework relief gives disadvantaged students the opportunity to learn in school without the distraction of negative consequences stemming from home circumstances that might not be conducive to quiet study. If we really want to help these kids get their homework done, we would invest in libraries and Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs, and provided these kids with after school educational/recreational programs where they could finish their homework and then have some fun.

With those comments, I still congratulate the school district for trying to create a rational homework policy. The one thing I think that is essential and missing from all homework policies I’ve seen is a statement that vests parents with final decision-making on matters in their own homes.

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Teachers, and Students, published by Wyndmoor Press.

The Myth of Motivation

Thanks to Kerry Dickinson for publishing my article, The Myth of Motivation, on her homework blog.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On organization for disorganized people.

Here is an article on a Washington Post blog that I found interesting.

Here's the comment I left to that article:

I think this is good advice and applies well to things I do in my life. I am a naturally disorganized person and as you say, it is better to develop tools like these than it is to try to become someone you are not. I have used tips like these in my life and they have helped me a great deal. Where I had difficulty in the past, and where I have my questions about how much this helps, is in the area of children and their homework. As disorganized as I am, my two homework-proficient children managed to do well, go to college, and move on with their lives. My one homework-deficient child had difficulties with the task that really called for homework to be reduced and in some cases waived, and, as a parent, I lacked that authority to make that decision. I think this is a major flaw in the homework system. So while I agree strongly that parents should try the approaches you mention, I think it is also important for parents to insist on having the right to make the final decision about what takes place in their home. As you say, ten minutes of snuggling has a lot of value for a child, and sometimes, you only have that ten minutes by saying, forget the assignment, let's snuggle. It's hard to do that if an authority, the teacher, is out there overruling your decision with a negative grade.

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Teachers, and Students, published by Wyndmoor Press.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What do you think?

Today's blog post was inspired by an article I read entitled, "What Your Child's Teacher Wants You to Know." I think it is always important in human relations to understand where the other person comes from, so I heartily recommend reading the article, and keeping in mind that teachers are people who care, have legitimate concerns, and should be understood and heard. With that in mind, I will take two comments from the first teacher's list and then pose a question that I would like the followers of this blog to answer, and, if possible, for the followers of this blog to pass the question on to others, including their children's teachers, and seek a response.

Among the writer's points are the following:

"If there is a pattern you’re not liking or a problem, reach out and express your concern. State the problem as you see it and then listen (note I didn’t say ‘ask for an explanation’). Don’t immediately assume that your lawyer must be your next phone call."


"Let the teacher know if there is an issue at home (a trauma, an upset, an illness, a change in circumstances). Information is a very helpful thing."

So I'm going to write two hypothetical letters to the teacher related to the second point, to let the teacher know what is happening at home, and ask everyone to leave a comment about which letter you think is better. If I get enough responses, I will then post a comment on the website that published this article, with the results, and, if I can, contact the author and ask her for her thoughts.

Letter 1

Dear Mrs. Jones:

I am writing to let you know that something has been happening at home that is making it difficult for Johnny to do his homework. The issue is personal, and I would prefer to keep the details private. I have told him not to worry about his homework, a decision I plan to review again as things go on. It will be very helpful for him to have a positive and supportive experience at school. Please do not penalize him, but rather, continue to offer him the excellent education that you have always offered him in class.

Thank you for your understanding.

Mrs. Smith

Letter 2

Dear Mrs. Jones:

I am writing to let you now that I just learned that Johnny's father is having an affair. This has created a great deal of upheaval in our home, and is making it difficult for him to focus on his homework. I know the final decision is yours, not mine, but if you could waive some of the penalties for work not done, that would be helpful.  Even if you have to give him lower grades, it would be helpful if he did not fail so that he could preserve his position on the school sports team.

Thank you for understanding.

Mrs. Smith

So what do you think? Is letter 1 or 2 the better letter? Should the parent have the choice between writing letter 1 or 2? Should the parent have the authority to write letter 1 with the expectation that the decision she has made will stand without further explanation (note that I reprinted the first of the teacher's two recommendations to the parents because she emphasized that the teacher did not owe an explanation to the parent).

Please leave your comments and I will summarize and report the results.

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Teachers, and Students, published by Wyndmoor Press.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Handwriting and Homework

I would like to draw attention to an article, Teacher on cursive:Worth its weight in gold, on teaching cursive handwriting in schools. I found the article through ASCD’s SmartBrief daily email, a good source for up-to-date information on what’s going on in education. I strongly agree with the need to teach cursive handwriting but go one step further and that is to argue that kids who have difficulty with handwriting must have homework relief, at least until they master the skill. Homework relief is not mentioned in this article, but handwriting is central to understanding The Homework Trap.

In my book, The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity ofParents, Students and Teachers, I talk about under-the-radar learning disorders as the reason why some children do well in school but cannot get their homework done. I focus on two specific areas where children have trouble: working memory and processing speed. Under the notion of processing speed comes handwriting, and it is difficulties with handwriting that are largely responsible for some children being unable to get their work done, at least in any reasonable amount of time. It’s for that reason that I advocate for time containers. Otherwise, the demand that children go on working and writing beyond what they can do is not just misguided, but abusive in ways.

I’m certainly in favor of teaching children cursive writing, and remediating the problem when handwriting gets in the way. Perhaps, the homework deficient child will become homework proficient when he learns to write more quickly. Perhaps that child will never learn to write well, but will develop keyboarding skills and go on to be proficient using the technologies of today. But whatever the outcome, we need to understand that there are only so many hours in a day. I leave it to educators to decide on how to balance the time needed to teach math, reading, science, history, and handwriting, just as long as they know there is a limit to the time with which they have to work, school and homework time combined.

Without these time boundaries, the outcome is inevitable.  If we continue to push beyond reasonable limits, children will display “bad behaviors,” and we will misinterpret those behaviors as the reason for the homework problems, not the result of homework pressures. We will continue to distract teachers, school administrators, and child study teams from their primary mission to educate our children, by having them deal with the behavioral problems they create through the homework system. This will serve to frustrate educators more, and even cost us good teachers who choose to leave the field. And the solution is simple. Give these kids homework relief.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Supporting egos

Today's comments was inspired by an article I read by a professor of anthropology who was discussing the differences between telling children "good job," or "thank you" in response to work that has been done. She makes a fine point, that is worth considering, although frankly I think that the differences she mentions are ones of style, and that parents can feel good about themselves in their interactions with their children whether they tend to say good job, thank you, or have some other non-verbal, perhaps more subtle way of conveying their approval. Further, parenting is a complicated task. We parents have matured and stay relatively the same once we reach the point that we are raising children, whereas children are changing in large amounts year to year. They may not respond the same next year to what you did that worked so well this year. Good parents are usually very good at some stage of a child's development and not so good at another. But in the end, all parents are critically important to their children and I daresay, their most important teachers.

Where parenting can go awry is not from following your natural inclinations as from being sent off center with yourself, and this is exactly what happens to parents of children who are homework trapped. The schools have so much authority to dictate what must be done, that parents lose their right to employ their judgment in deciding what to do when a child has trouble with his homework. That sheer lose of authority costs the child much more that any value that could be accrued by getting the particular assignment done.

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of professional experience in dealing with many different psychological issues. He is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers and currently works in his own private practice.

Visit the
Read book reviews of The Homework Trap
What is The Homework Trap?
A Roadmap to Success
504 plans

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Homework, parenting, teacher retention, and school suspension.

There is an article in the Washington Post today on why it is unwise to try to improve education by weeding out bad teachers, and one yesterday in the New York Times on the disproportionate use of school suspension with minority students and students who have disabilities. Both articles touch on aspects of human nature that are strikingly similar to what happens with homework policy. It's the same basic folly involved in using coercion to achieve behavioral goals. Here's my video comment:

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of professional experience in dealing with many different psychological issues. He is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers and currently works in his own private practice.

Visit the
Read book reviews of The Homework Trap
What is The Homework Trap?
A Roadmap to Success
504 plans

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Attrracting and Retaining Great Teachers

I saw this comment about how to retain good teachers, and added my own as follows:
I think there are two keys to attracting and retaining great teachers. First, we need to focus on the initial training of teachers and this is the responsibility of the schools of education. Second, we need to place continuing evaluation in the hands of the profession, just as we do for doctors, and lawyers, and accountants, and every other professional, and this lies in the in-house evaluation system, through the principal and the superintendent, and through statewide systems, such as we find in licensing boards and bar associations. This does not come through evaluating the results as much as making sure teachers are up-to-date on the methods. Such systems provide parents with an avenue to raise concerns about seriously flawed teachers, e.g. the option to register a complaint with the licensing board should a particular school system fail to take action on a particularly bad teacher. At the same time, this provides protection and security for an average teacher to continue to work in his or her chosen profession, try to improve skills, but not under undue threat. The final step to having great teachers is to alter homework policy which means reducing the teacher's authority over what happens in the home. If the teacher has more authority in the class but less authority over the home, teaching will improve.
What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment.

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of professional experience in dealing with many different psychological issues. He is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers and currently works in his own private practice.

Visit the
Read book reviews of The Homework Trap
What is The Homework Trap?
A Roadmap to Success
504 plans

Monday, August 6, 2012

Homework Help Articles

I get a Google alert every day so that I can keep up on what is being said about homework around the world. It was quiet last month, but I see the volume of articles on the rise. First, there are articles addressing the anxieties caused by undone summer homework. Second, there are articles preparing parents for the coming year. For today's blogpost, I'm going to reference an article I read entitled "Homework Hassle: When Kids Struggle and Parents Can't Help." The article focuses on the fact that curricula changes over time and that many parents are not familiar with the material itself, or the ways in which the material is taught. Hey, I'm all for educational innovation, and if teachers are finding new and better ways to present math or science, or whatever kids need to learn, that's great. But the article accepts the assumption that parents need to be up-to-date on what teachers are teaching their children. It goes so far as to suggest that many teachers will help tutor the parent in the lessons so that they can be of greater help to their children.

The article acts as if the notion that the parent is an intermediary between the teacher and the child, and needs instruction and supervision about how to execute that role. I think we should seriously question that idea. Parents are authorities, and in fact, the people kids count on most to be in charge of their homes. Parents have a wide range of interests and talents, but they are uniformly the first ones kids look up to. Parents teach valuable lessons to their children everyday regarding values, and relationships, and how to have fun. Parents model for children what to do when the sink is clogged up, even if they don't happen to be plumbers by trade. They teach kids to think for themselves and to exercise judgment in everyday matters. Between their jobs, and their interests, and their relationships with their kids, why would we think it is important for parents to now become academic teachers as well?

If a child does not "get it," in class, then the teacher, as a professional, needs to consider using his or her skills to help that child learn. That's what teachers are paid to do.

As many of my readers know, I have three children who are grown, two quite successful at school, one homework-trapped. I was a far better parent with my school-successful kids, not because I was a particularly great parent, but I was an extremely centered parent. The kids knew who I was, for better or worse. I chipped in here and there, when asked or when I thought it was truly needed. They learned a lot from me, and I can see it in their adult behaviors that they've picked up on strategies that took me years to figure out for myself. But for my youngest, the homework-trapped child, it was misguided and a waste of time, taking on for myself responsibility for extending the school day into my home.

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of professional experience in dealing with many different psychological issues. He is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers and currently works in his own private practice.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Homework and Social Relationships

Here is another good reason for helping children out of the Homework Trap. According to the research cited in this article, early social relationships are key to adult happiness. Children who are homework trapped cannot complete their work in a reasonable amount of time. They have to chose between doing their homework, at the cost of relationships, or refusing to do their work to play with their friends. But they don't have the choice, to do their work in a reasonable amount of time, unless the adults, parents and teachers, put time boundaries on the work they have to do. Create the time containers and the children will learn, and they will learn to socialize as well.

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of professional experience in dealing with many different psychological issues. He is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers and currently works in his own private practice.

Visit the
Read book reviews of The Homework Trap
What is The Homework Trap?
A Roadmap to Success
504 plans