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 
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, 
when those very stacks of paper 
are not making anyone 
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. 

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