(Originally posted 11/15/10)
This is a response I posted on moretprs about my own personal journey with assigning homework.
Several people asked if I could put it here so….here it is. ;o)
1st year teaching: I thought that students loved me and loved my class so much that they would do the homework before class ended!
5th year teaching: I thought that although not everyone loved me or my class, at least they all wanted good grades so they would do the homework by the due date.
10th year teaching: I thought that although they might not like me nor my class, nor care about their grades, that their parents did and would MAKE THEM do the homework and hand it in on time.
15th year teaching: I thought that although they might not like me nor my class, nor care about grades that their parents might and COULD make them do the homework and hand it in if they wanted to.
20th year teaching: My own children were getting so much (ludicrous and unnecessary) homework that a) I didn’t have time to correct my students’ homework and b) I began to wonder if it accomplished anything anyway….
25th year teaching: My own children didn’t like some teachers, saw little purpose in homework assignments and I had already tried (and failed) to get them to do homework by grounding, punishing and several other measures. I saw that they did do homework under two different scenarios: a) the teacher publicly taunted them or humiliated them when work was not done b) the work was interesting, engaging and actually helped them to learn/understand something about the topic. I stopped giving work that was only done at home. Instead I began to collect the work that students did IN CLASS.
28th year teaching: Both sons are in very good colleges and receiving scholarships. I continue to give assignments that are done in class. NOTHING I EVER GAVE FOR HOMEWORK INCREASED LONG-TERM MEMORY OF TERMS OR STRUCTURES. It also never taught one single student to be more accountable or responsible….that was a myth that I attempted to perpetuate for two decades.
(yes…Alfie Kohn uses the term “myth” and I think he has it right…I’ve kept data on my students to “prove” it for administrators)
Are my students responsible? I think so…although you can ask the folks who have come in to observe me in the past five years if you would like a less-biased approach. They show up, get to work, work for as long as I ask them to and work well. They don’t bad-mouth each other, keep the room cleaner than I do and I rarely ever have a student skip class.
Are they scoring well on state tests? So far…very well. I have shifted levels this year so I can give you a better idea of that at the end of June.
Are they “life-long” learners? Are they staying in the program? Without a doubt. Since beginning with TPRS and stopping routine daily homework assignments we have maintained a 20 -25 % retention rate through level 4 (which would be higher if we could get scheduling issues worked out…) and have launched a half dozen Peace Corp participants and an equal number of language teachers…surprising considering our size. More importantly..to me anyway…is the number of students who have gone on to study language in college and participate in study abroad programs.
Even without homework.
Now..having said all of that…each of us should feel free to run our classrooms as we deem appropriate given the knowledge and experience that we have. We should be free to challenge our OWN policies at any time. The world is changing nanosecond by nanosecond. It’s hard to keep up.
We are all doing our best.
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