Finding Hope in Our Homework

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“Homework will make your life better.” It’s a line I shared with my students over and over when I taught high school English. But, the truth is, that was before I was really an adult – and long before I had children.

From my own perspective, homework opened the doors of opportunity. The classroom environment has always produced considerable stress in me, but – on my bed late at night – I found the freedom to work through problems and write papers without the pressure of feeling that everyone else knew more than me. Homework, in many ways, was my safe space.

Just this week a note for parents from a teacher in Texas went viral, as she boldly announced an end to “formally assigned homework” in her class. The Internet may have rejoiced, but the teacher in me has serious questions: What, then, will fill that homework time?

Years ago, I taught multiple subjects at a private school where homework was strongly discouraged. And, to be honest, the whole idea was new to me. Despite my own affinity for at-home application of concepts learned in school, I designed my lesson plans to allow for – as the school desired – time for family meals, reading, and togetherness.

Except that wasn’t what happened at all.

Instead of homework, students played video games, looked at pornography, and obsessed over numerous social media accounts. Where were the parents? They were living the same lives they would live if the children had been assigned homework.

I think this is where we as a society get it wrong. If you’ve held an instructional role in the classroom, you know that there is no magic bullet in education. None. And I think any teacher would agree that the real problems we daily encounter are not going to be fixed with homework policies.

Last weekend I ran into friend of mine who is an elementary teacher. He confessed the various challenges he encounters on the front lines, and, unsurprisingly, he didn’t mention homework one single time.

What, then, did he perceive to be the greatest barrier? Broken families – a loss of mentors, a loss of stability, a loss of hope.

Do I think students are often assigned too much homework, especially in primary education? Absolutely, but I do not believe that a lack of work assigned outside of school will change communities in the way many of those outside of the classroom believe it will.

And what if a book could unlock the elusive promise? What if, just like myself, a young person can find shelter from all of life’s pressure inside its pages?

I think balance for our children is within reach, but it requires investment from all of us. That’s our homework. And, parents, we need your support, even if you can’t understand everything we do.

After all, your child is our hope, too.

::today’s daily inspiration::

5 thoughts on “Finding Hope in Our Homework

  1. “…there is no magic bullet in education. None.”

    Amen! I was beginning to think I was the only one who thought this whole no homework thing going viral was misguided.

    Every kid is different. That’s why I loathe standardized tests, and that’s why a cookie cutter approach to education will never, ever work.

    Real teachers teach to the student, not to the test, and not to the administration. And if you don’t have buy-in from the parents, none of it will stick anyway.

    Thanks for posting this. You are not alone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the encouragement. The mob mentality of this moment is almost sickening – everyone wants their pound of flesh. I blame Donald Trump…kidding! I think this all is a deeper manifestation of resentment from No Child Left Behind, Common Core, and parents simply not knowing how to ensure their children are successful in the high-stakes testing climate. Teachers are a most excellent (and ridiculously convenient) target. My husband and I go around and around with educational choices for our children, so I really do get that perspective, but – as a teacher – it is not one I can hold. Most teachers are doing the best they can given current classroom trends, and, let’s be honest, I don’t know a single one who gives homework for fun – that means LOTS of grading 🙂

      Like

  2. I feel for teachers everywhere– they have one of the hardest jobs in the world.

    All my kids do is homework, lol! One of the perks of homeschooling;)

    But I’ve had to stretch and grow as a parent/teacher the last several years. My only daughter has dyslexia. And, she doesn’t enjoy reading. It’s such an effort for her… She’s making incredible strides, and she’s reading at grade level, but I wonder if she will ever be able to get lost between the pages of a book as I did as a young girl.

    Literacy is important, but it’s not all important. My daughter is teaching me this. She sees the world differently. Not just sees words differently than I do, but every. single. thing. I can’t imagine the misery of children like her in school all day. And then, hours of homework on top of that.

    My heart breaks for children today…. The social and academic pressures they face, beginning at such a young age, is unprecedented in human history. We’ve never before expected this much of teachers and students while investing so little as parents. At some point, somethings gotta give….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kristen, your perspective must be very interesting given your dual role as teacher and mother! The pressures, as you suggest, are unreal. I think parents really struggle to relate to their children when it comes to schooling – it’s so very different from what they experienced (and what we will experience with our kids). But I don’t know that placing the blame on homework is beneficial…or healthy. I do wonder how much of the increased load is a result of administrative pressure and the neverending testing model. As you suggest, something deep is broken, but I think our teachers are the key not the enemy to the solution.

      Liked by 1 person

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