Homework: to assign or not?

You know when I was in school I always looked at homework as just part of the way school was. It wasn’t until my senior year that I encountered someone who simply didn’t do it. They said home was their time, what they could get done at school was done, but once they left school that was it. At the time that really bothered me, I seem to recall arguing with said person about that philosophy. Homework was to help us learn right? I mean the purpose was to give us practice with the new skills we were learning right? But what about people who do have a lot to do when they get home. One of the guys I knew played school sports the had to go home and work a job, often didn’t get home until late in the evening and then he had to do homework. Was he at his best at that point? Was he really learning?

I’ll be honest it took me a long time to change my habits. The first few years I taught I stuck to the “old way” homework assigned if not nightly then at least several times a week to be completed at home if not completed in whatever class time I provided which I’ll be the first to admit was often not much.

While in my last classroom position I began to offer more and more time in class to complete work so that I could be there to answer any questions; though with the advent of students having e-mail and social media I’m more accessible. The first time I had a student message me to ask a question about their homework it was through myspace, yep does that tell you how long it’s been lol. I’ve had students also e-mail to ask me questions or tell me they won’t be at school for whatever reason and ask for their assignments, it’s awesome!

This year I’ve really pushed to limit homework as much as possible. My students have lives just like I do. I don’t want to take home stacks of papers and be grading all hours of the day and night. I have a family I want to spend time with and hobbies or activities of my own so why should I expect any different of my students.

As we begin any new assignment I go through it with students, I’m here for questions and I do my best to allow most of class time for them to finish. Hopefully they walk out with no homework or maybe just a question or two. The one weekly homework I assign are journals and students do have a week to complete them, in that week they go to Academic Focus three times and have that time to work on homework with fifteen minutes dedicated strictly to writing.

Big projects or essays are planned into our pacing guide for several days so students can complete it all here at school where they can ask for help and have wifi access, which some don’t have at home. Any homework on these assignments come from poor time management, often playing games on their Chromebooks rather than working, ie it’s a natural consequence. I make the rounds in my room working with students and checking in with them but I have some of the world’s best procrastinators this year. Still I try to assign valuable work that should be classwork.

This seems to me to go along with the Repair Kit for Grading that I read, kids that need to do homework will find it valuable but some kids just don’t need the extra practice. Much like that person I knew back in high school that would pass the classes mainly because they passed the tests, but hey that person knew the material and isn’t that what’s important? If I could, I’d tell that person now: thanks for sticking that germ of an idea in my head. I only wish it hadn’t taken so long for me to change my habits and get away from the idea of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” because maybe it was broken. I do see my students understanding of the material increase as they do classwork more than homework.

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