Saturday, February 20, 2010

#19 & 20- The DOG ate my homework....

Sorry friends...I could not post yesterday because I was truly in a lot of pain....I have done something to my back...either it is from doing reverse butterfly exercises in Kim's Class of Pain on Tuesday or getting a little crazy on the drums playing Wii Rock Band with Noah earlier in the week (I can rock out on the drums..just for the record). So that is my excuse....which is the perfect segue way to my topic for today's post, which will be extra long (not) since it is two posts combined!! And by the way, I looked up the word segue way here and it still doesn't look right!!

Anyway...on any given day one of my little friends comes to school without his homework completed. So let's chat about this shall we.....this conversation is either going to go swimmingly, or it will end badly...let's proceed and see what happens.

As teachers (and parents) this is a topic that brings a range of, hate, anger, tears, joy, name it...we see it.

Let me take you down the teacher path first. I want out start out by dispelling the myth that giving homework is a time-honored tradition, and that is why teachers give it. Let's face it, we have all had to do our share of homework in our educational years...and even out in the "real world" of jobs/careers...there is still homework..they just call it something different. When I worked out in the corporate world they like to wrap it up in "this client really needs this report tomorrow" or "we are facing a tight deadline and we really need these numbers for tomorrow morning's meeting" paper. Even when I owned and ran my own business, there were always last minute orders that you had no choice to take, because you needed the business or the client would go elsewhere, so it meant a last minute rush out for supplies and a late night!

But back to homework in the school setting. The real purpose is to allow kids to practice skills they are taught in school...pure and simple. The reality is, that the school day only contains so many hours to introduce a concept, with limited practice. So the real practice has to take place at home, which is where homework comes in. On a typical night, I give my students about 45min-1 hour worth of homework, not including the 30 minutes of required reading nightly. It seems reasonable to me, but many may disagree that 90 minutes (with 1/3 of that being reading) is too much for a 9 year old. And I do understand that with multiple children in a family, that can lead to several hours a night being spent on homework. I only have one child, and he is very self motivated, so aside from monitoring his reading minutes, I only have to check over homework to make sure it is complete and correct.

Herein lies the issue with homework that I have as a teacher...many of my students do no complete and turn in homework. I know I posted about this already this month but it really is hot button with me. Everyday I check homework, and everyday there are several of my little friends who do no complete and turn it in. When I ask them where it is and why they did not turn it into me, I get a myriad of excuses. Everything from "I forgot," "or "I left it at home" or my favorite "I don't know (how can you NOT know where your homework either did it or not..C'mon people!!! Can I get an AMEN???) The one that gets my blood boiling (yes, I know I am taking this WAY too personally) is when they just give me the blank stare or shrug their shoulders. I think the reason this last response gets me so worked up is because I grew up in a house where if you were asked a question by an adult, you answered. No answer, or shrugging your shoulders was not acceptable. UPDATE: Another issue for another post...but another thing that gets me even more worked up is when they complete their homework, but fail TO PUT THEIR NAME ON IT.....yes, I can usually figure out who it belongs to by the handwriting....but c'mon..why do all the work, then forget to put your name on it so you can receive credit for said work? I have gotten to the point where if it comes in with no name on it, it goes in the trash...I know that sounds harsh. But I'll post about this later and you can all FLAME me then!!!

So what should the consequence be?? I usually have them complete any missed homework at recess. But since we only have 15 minutes of recess time, rarely do they complete it during that time. So I ask them to take it home and complete it and return it tomorrow (along with their new homework for that night)...and guess still doesn't come back the next day. It is a vicious cycle.

I have talked to other teachers in my building and they face the same dilemma. Many of them have given up the battle. Other say that in the scheme of things in these kid's troubled home life, homework is the least of their worries. And I get that, really I do. I know the kind of chaos these kids live in. Many of them say they did not have paper or pencil at home to complete their which I reply, "then take it home with you from school." (there is always a box of pencils and loose leaf paper on the table in my classroom for them to freely use). But the pragmatic side of me says that my job is to teach them responsibility. I found myself telling a kid "If you grow up and you become a carpenter, and someone hires you to fix their house. Will they accept the excuse that you did not have a hammer and nails to complete the job they asked you to do? Will they still pay you even though you did not complete the job?" I want them to see that when they grow up they have to take responsibility, despite their circumstances. I truly believe there is a correlation to school and the real world. If we make excuse for them all their lives, will they grow up and be productive members of society?

I guess homework is just one of those issues, that as a teacher, I am always going to struggle with. I hope that I am not being too legalistic with it..but I feel strongly that it has a purpose and that my little friends need to do it...and that hopefully one of them will grow up, become the CEO of a major corporation, and secretly thank me for making him do his homework, because it made him the man he is today (okay I will stop dreaming...because my nightmare would be to be mentioned at a parole hearing....."Well the reason I committed this crime was because in 3rd grade....well, it all started with homework...")

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