Homework on Trial #sol



Homework, Oh Homework..


The Case Against Homework 

Will anyone rise to the defense of Homework, 
on trial for killing the joy of learning?

Certainly not the students 
who groan as they copy down their assignments,
rush through their worksheets without care,
or conveniently "forget" their books in school. 

Surely not the parents who,
between cooking dinner
and driving to basketball practice 
and religion class 
and gymnastics,
have the unpleasant task 
of making sure
Homework gets done. 
They feel just a twinge of guilt 
signing the reading log,
not at all certain if their child read
but desperate to get Homework 
and one more thing
checked off their list. 

The teachers, you say, 
The teachers must be willing 
to speak on Homework's behalf?
The teachers hesitate, 
thinking of their many wasted hours
 standing in front of the copy machine
cranking out endless worksheets of misery. 
The teachers are buried under paper, 
Workhorses with rolling carts,
 transporting stacks of paper
which sit in haughty piles
silently chastising.
Defend homework?
The teachers plead the Fifth. 

Homework asks to speak in her defense.
She says she has a long legacy 
of teaching responsibility, 
time management, organization.
Reviewing what was learned in class.
Reinforcing lessons by practicing. 
Homework claims she was widely accepted 
and universally loved.
She cannot, under oath,
recall when the tide 
turned against her.


In his closing remarks, 
the Prosecutor states that Homework
conjures up images of drudgery
 and compliance.
Further, he states, 
Homework causes familial unrest,
Makes teacher and student enemies,
Creates friction between teacher and parent. 
He concludes that no study 
Ever proved 
Homework 
has helped anyone. 

The time has come for Homework's fate to be decided.
Will students be sentenced to writing spelling sentences
and completing reading logs
and filling out worksheets?
Will we teachers sentence ourselves to stacks of paper to check, 
grade,
 file,
when those very stacks of paper 
are not making anyone 
better 
at anything?

At the time of publication,
The jury was still out 
on Homework. 




This poem was inspired by a conversation with my Twitter (and Voxer) teacher pal, Kristen, who is so purposeful and passionate about teaching kids. She has been helping me think through the role of homework, its purpose, and place in the classroom.  The jury is really still out for me regarding assigning homework.  Here are some of my questions:


  • If I cannot control what student do at home and who is helping them or not helping them, how accurate is the information that I am getting from their homework assignments? 
  • If students do not have support at home and their assignments are incomplete or wrong, is giving them a consequence appropriate? 
  • When so much of the day involves sitting and tasks focused on reading and math, should students have opportunities after school to explore other passions, like sports, dance, drama, art, and gaming? 
  • Does homework set up a negative dynamic where the teacher needs to give a consequence for homework not being completed? 
  • If a consequence is not given for homework being incomplete, what message does that send to students and parents?
  • If a teacher does not have time to check the homework, should it still be completed?
  • If we don't assign work, how do we get the students to read, write, and think when they are not at school?
  • Does assigning homework help students to become lifelong readers, writers, and thinkers?
  • Will parents understand if we do not send home written homework or will they think we are lazy or slacking? 
  • Is anything that is "assigned" automatically a chore to the student instead of a pleasurable activity that would naturally be sought out?
  • Do we need to hold students accountable for independent home reading? If so, how can we do that without killing their love of reading?
  • Likewise, if we want students to write more or blog, do we assign that? Does assigning writing for homework lead to pieces written just to get it done, without meaning or heart?
I welcome any thoughts and ideas you've come to realize about homework and your homework policies as I debate Homework's place in my classroom. 



Comments

  1. A couple years ago a student in the dual enrollment speech class I teach gave a superb speech on the diminishing returns of homework. I don't recall homework assigned when I was in elementary school, but I do remember reading at home, which parents should promote w/out the often dreaded reading log. In terms of my own teaching, whether or not kids have homework largely depends on what I'm teaching. In the dual credit class, there is no way to avoid homework. It's a college-level class, and we simply don't have time to complete all the work in class, including reading from the text, much of the research--although I give lab days--and completion of outlines. In my general speech classes, students don't have much homework, but they are younger. I'm teaching AP Lit and Comp next year, and most of the writing will happen in class, but most of the reading will happen outside of class. In terms of drill type work assigned as homework, I'm not a fan.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So much to say about this post!! First of all, I adore your poem...each and every syllable!!! It's creative and thoughtful and just so good!! Your list of questions...even better! You're letting us into your thought process and I love that. It's like I can see inside your brain! I'm not a fan of homework. I've found that no matter what homework I assign, I get some people complaining that it's too much and others complaining that it's not enough. I ask the students to read and write on their own...and what that looks like changes all the time. I find that students will go above & beyond and do lots of work outside the classroom if it's something they see value in and care about. Thank you for including us, your readers, into your struggle with homework. Keep writing!! I LOVE your blog!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great poem. This is publishable. I would send it to Language Arts, or another ELA journal. I'm not a huge fan of homework. I think it doesn't help the kids who need the most help. I want my kids to go home wanting to practice what we do through reading before bed and writing in journals as they live their lives, but I'm not sure if homework which is scored is the route to that. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I LOVE your poem! We are supposed to take up the question of homework at our school and I would love to not have any aside from an expectation that the students read (without a mandated book, amount, etc). I loved the questions you had after the poem as well- many are the same I toss around in my mind. Aside from teachers, most other professional do not have "homework", so why should kids?!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Kathy, you are once again sharing with us what a consummate teacher you are. Your post is so articulate and your poem...who else could write such a sensitive piece about homework but you! When I was teaching ESL, I gave homework only once or twice a week and usually it was to encourage thinking about what we had learned that day. Such as a thought-provoking question about Malala, the amazing young Pakistani girl my fifth-graders and I read and wrote about. I wanted them to really think about her and her effect on the world. A classroom teacher, however, has a fine line to walk between pleasing parents who could care less about homework, and those who will complain about you if you don't give any! I'll be curious to see what conclusions you come to after getting feedback on this issue.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Why? What's the purpose? Who is the audience? What if..? You already have started pondering, questioning the present status of hw. I know a school in Zurich that stopped giving hw in primary grades, and because they had strong arguments there were no complaints or protests from any party invovled.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Such thoughtful words! I have wrestled with this topic myself. Personally, I have decided against homework for a couple of reasons . We work very hard all day long. At the end of the day, I want to go home and relax and know my students feel the same way. I want them refreshed for the next day. I do require reading at night (20 mins for 4th grade) but do not do reading logs for the same reasons you mentioned here about honesty. Instead, I take a status of the class every morning which I have found to be much more effective for monitoring reading progress than the logs. I give my students lots of work time during the day. If they use it wisely, they don't have any homework since whatever work they don't finish in class must be done at home. This has decreased the amount of messing around that happens during work time because students don't want to have to take anything home. In return, my students and their families are much more appreciative and cooperative, and I have my nights and weekends free. (Not to mention the trees are happier too because I'm not making a zillion copies every week.) This is what has worked for me. :) Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I hear you. Elementary school homework has been, in my experience as a parent, the WORST. However, my students do homework. It's preparing for class (such as reading or writing), but since it's not done in class always, it must be counted as homework. I do struggle with how much homework my daughter is and has always been given. In her case, it seems punitive at worst and busywork at best.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I always dutifully did my homework. However, I often wonder how vastly different my life would have been if my only homework had been to read and write nightly. I think that would've been so freeing. (Plus, I would've had so many more shoeboxes since I made one too many diaramas in school.)

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is quite the post for this end of the year season. It's sort of a look back-look ahead kind of post. There is so much here. Your poem - just wonderful. Your thoughts - so reflective of this homework process that consumes families and makes many evenings and Sunday nights stressful. I did homework 0 I guess like Stacey. I never missed a piece of paper. Yet, one of my own kids did LITTLE - very little and still made it through school just fine. I too wish we could create a society that valued reading and writing meaningful texts as the work of life long learners. Your post gets me thinking......too.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is quite the post for this end of the year season. It's sort of a look back-look ahead kind of post. There is so much here. Your poem - just wonderful. Your thoughts - so reflective of this homework process that consumes families and makes many evenings and Sunday nights stressful. I did homework 0 I guess like Stacey. I never missed a piece of paper. Yet, one of my own kids did LITTLE - very little and still made it through school just fine. I too wish we could create a society that valued reading and writing meaningful texts as the work of life long learners. Your post gets me thinking......too.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is quite the post for this end of the year season. It's sort of a look back-look ahead kind of post. There is so much here. Your poem - just wonderful. Your thoughts - so reflective of this homework process that consumes families and makes many evenings and Sunday nights stressful. I did homework 0 I guess like Stacey. I never missed a piece of paper. Yet, one of my own kids did LITTLE - very little and still made it through school just fine. I too wish we could create a society that valued reading and writing meaningful texts as the work of life long learners. Your post gets me thinking......too.

    ReplyDelete
  13. You've captured just how multidimensional the issue of homework is and why this is not a clear-cut issue but one that requires thoughtful consideration about the role of homework in a classroom. I look forward to the continued conversation about this topic.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Fantastic poem! So clever but also such an important issue. I love what homework says in her defense (though I don't agree with it) and also the line about parents cringing as they sign the reading log. We did finally get rid of reading logs this year and we no longer assign spelling homework. We are down to math and independent reading. I

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

#SOL16 Ditch the Dojo?

The Teacher I Used to Be #SOL17

Farewell Letter to Students #sol