I have been reading a little more on the list serve lately. It is the yahoo group moretprs. It has been so helpful and there are a lot of teachers out there who are posting on great issues. There were a couple of posts lately about assigning homework and apathy. They have really caused me to think about these two problems in education today.
Problems? What problems? Well I am sure that many teachers know that kids do not like doing homework. So what else is new? Well, if I am ever going to help kids to use Spanish I need to think about this. I know that most of the kids look for ways to not do the homework and even when they do they mostly just do what they have to instead of it being a useful tool.
So what is homework and why do we assign it? I think that at first, homework was meant to be extended practice so that the students could have more exposure to the material. Something happened, though. Homework became more about busy work and less about actual learning. Over the years maybe we have seen it in education as something that must be there in order for advanced learning to occur. It can be hard to imagine school without it. But this upcoming generation is not responding well to homework. Some may say that they just need to suck it up and get with the program.
To be honest, if I have 6 classes and I assign homework every night or every other night, I will not want to grade all of those papers. Teachers have to go through enough. Why should they spend their whole entire life planning and grading? Where is the room for reflection and growing in the subject you are teaching? I feel that the later are more important than spending hours grading papers, passing them back to a student who will throw it in the trash. Our time is worth more than that. Besides, we will not have the enthusiasm to give the feedback that they really need.
Some students do not even make an attempt to do the homework. This is a big sign to us as teachers. If students are not taking the time to do the homework they are communicating that it is not important to them. Which means that either they don’t understand why they are doing homework or they plain just don’t care, no matter how beneficial it is.
When students don’t do homework they are also communicating a rebellion to the educational system. It is their way of saying that what we do in school doesn’t matter to them. Many times when students do homework, they just do the bare minimum to get the points. They know what the system is. They have spent most of their educational life learning and beating the system. They know that homework = points = a good grade = whatever gets them what they want. So they do it for that reason, not because they want to learn Spanish and get better at it. So, rather than fight them, why don’t we think of a new way to reach them.
I feel that there is a new way of teaching that is coming to the surface. What is important? That they do their homework or that they learn the material. In my case, that they learn and use Spanish. That is the goal, right? If we focus our time around this concept, then we are heading in the right direction. I not saying never assign homework. What I am saying is that it does not have to be there. If it is there, then it should be meaningful and not just busy work. How does the homework make them want to learn more Spanish? How does it help them to learn more Spanish? Is this something that they can receive feedback on? Do I really want to grade a hundred of these? These are some of the questions that I ask before I assign something. If we assign something, there should be quality feedback so they know how they are doing.
I think that a lot of what the students need to know can be accomplished in class. Then the students will be more refreshed and excited to learn each day because they are not bogged down with homework. Let’s be honest. Is what we do each day so complicated that it can’t be covered in a class? If it is then we are trying to teach too much in a class period.