As the school year begins, teachers everywhere are thinking about the homework policies that they will set in place. Soon, they will meet with parents at Back to School Nights where they will share their expectations. What will they be?
If you are a teacher, will you continue the standards that you’ve used for years? If you’re a first-year teacher, will you model your mentor from your student teaching days, or look for other sources to help you set your standards? Here are some thoughts to consider in creating your homework policy.
1. Process and product. When you see a child in school, you see that student’s process and product. You watch him tackle that assignment before he turns it in. You may notice he has difficulties getting started and you go over to see what the problem may be. Perhaps, despite his poor work, you factor in your observation that he really is trying to do his best. Since you don’t see him working at home, you don’t have the opportunity to help him start his work. All you see is the product alone.
2. Time. The class starts and stops by the bell. Ordinary people clock in and out of work every day. Homework goes on until it gets done. It’s timeless. It’s pretty difficult (even for a motivated student) to keep on working when the work seems too hard.
3. Training. Where did you learn to give homework? Where do you brush up on your skills? For a practice that counts as heavily as it does, it is surprising how little it actually gets taught. Did you have a course in college called “Homework?” Are the journals you read and the teacher websites you visit filled with articles on how to do homework well? You’ve been taught to teach. How much education have you had in how to give homework?
4. Research. Are you aware that the research gives scant support for homework as a teaching tool? Do you know that most homework advocates are basing their positions on intangible benefits, not well-researched support? How much intangible value do you think it has for a student to be battling with his parents, getting little done, all night long?
5. Turf. Who do you think should be in charge of a student’s home? You? Their parents? Most teachers resent parents who tell them how to run the class. You want your principal (not parents and politicians) to serve as your boss. Why should parents give you permission to make decisions about what goes on in their homes? For sure, there are many students for whom homework is in synch with other aspects of family life (and you might know some parents who are clamoring for more). But in the end, should it be you or the student’s parents who make the final decision about what should go on once the school day is done?
Ponder these questions and consider them carefully as you set up your rules, and most importantly, as you think what to say on Back to School Night.
Visit The Homewor Trap website
Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Teachers, and Students, published by Wyndmoor Press.