What about homework???

homework

Homework.

A topic familiar to almost any public school student. And parent. With staunch supporters on either side of the debate, homework remains nestled in the crossfire. So what are my thoughts on the issue of homework? As I assigned homework to my students over the years I have seen the same, predictable results.

The predictable results are: stress and conflict, frustration and exhaustion. For years I assigned a black homework duotang on Monday mornings, and requested that students complete and submit the package by Friday of the same week. I would mark it on the weekend. Every Friday the same group of students didn’t have it finished, another group was stressed because they didn’t understand something and did not have support at home to assist them with homework, and yet a third group likely finished all the work in about ten minutes and probably got it all correct. I know early on in the year which parents are doing the homework for their children (isn’t this encouraging cheating?), and I recognize by the ashamed and red faces students who don’t have a home life that facilitates making homework possible.

I began to ask myself why I continued to administer this archaic form of work. The assessment I was pulling from the homework could easily be done in class through conferencing or other methods. So I began to reflect on my practice and asked myself – what if there was no homework?

Alfie Kohn explains that, “the surprising news is that there are virtually no pros to balance the cons (of homework). Even if you regard grades or test scores as good measures of learning, which I do not, doing homework has no statistical relationship to achievement in elementary school”.  The Homework Myth (Da Capo Press) Which I can totally understand. Most learning should take place in school, and we as teachers should be able to ascertain on a weekly basis who needs more support in their learning. And sending more work home is not going to help them be more successful.

What if we rethink what happens at school and see if we can remove the stress from homework that is affecting some students’ love of learning? What if we fostered more student-led, critical thinking in our classrooms? What if the homework that needed to be assigned was valuable, meaningful, and student-centered?

Kids should be kids. They spend nearly seven hours a day at school. Why not let them experience life and grow in ways that matter outside of the classroom. Let them go to swimming lessons, hockey practices, chess matches, drama and dance rehearsals. Let them enjoy family time at the end of a long day instead of cluttering it with worksheets, assignments, and memorization. I believe the removal of homework can work to eliminate  social inequalities, help students and parents’ relationships and home lives, and add a new dimension to valuable classroom learning and assessment.

 

 

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