Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Great Debate

                If one takes a good look at teachers, as a whole, the population would be considered quick-to-judge. Naturally, this comes from years when teachers made an assumption and were ultimately proven correct. Vatterott (2009, p. 47) claims this is because it is “easier to judge children as unmotivated or lazy than to reflect on our own teaching methods or to admit we don’t have the tools, experience, or training to meet individual students’ needs.” While Vatterott may represent that other side of the homework debate, her words hold a strong truth in the educational profession. After only three months of full-time, independent teaching (and three months of cooperative, student teaching), I have come to believe that students are [were] lazy for not doing their homework. While I do not believe Vatterott changed my beliefs on homework, she definitely provided a perspective to consider that I had never once began to think about.

                I have a couple students who, no matter what the assignment is, do not complete their homework. Currently, my students in 8th grade are learning about media literacy and they are given worksheets to reinforce the topic we discussed that day. For instance, we learned about 10 forms of propaganda and, as their assignment, I handed each a sheet with a different advertisement on it. They needed to determine which form of propaganda was presented and write 4-5 sentences on why they felt their opinion was correct. While I had 70% of my students complete this assignment, I had that handful of students who didn’t write a single word on the page. I could understand how that assignment would be the one to be forgotten. The next one, to further examine Print Advertisements, students needed to answer five multiple choice questions about an 1861 ad. Still, I had students that didn’t answer a single question. I don’t understand how five questions are too much; my head instantly dubs these students as lazy.

                I feel, if anything, this discussion is opening my eyes to a different side of homework. Like it was said during the face-to-face discussion, I was actively involved in high school and still completed my homework. I understand that some students may have difficulty doing so (part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, etc.), but at what point are we, the teachers, making excuses for our students. And at what point are they, the students, realizing that if they spin their story the correct way, they can avoid all the homework they want.

                I have a student who was told, if he/she ever feel overwhelmed, he/she would not have to complete his/her assignments for my class. Just my class. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it until those words, “I felt too overwhelmed to do this” came out of his/her mouth. A student in Junior High would not use that type of language.  He/she listened. He/she heard what his/her teachers said and realized, if he/she spun his story toward those words, he/she could avoid the work.

                Don’t get me wrong – I agree that we need to be conscious of students’ lives outside of our school, but never would I agree with cutting homework. While it may not teach organization or time-management (as Vatterott claims), it does teach students to work. They cannot skid by through school without ever having to be responsible for something. Whether that is five multiple choice problems or a 10 page paper, students must be held accountable for homework. To give them none would only damage them later. No matter what profession they choose, they will have some type of homework. And no one is going to eliminate their homework for them. It just doesn’t happen.


  1. I also made the comment "at what point are we making excuses for our students?"...How are we to know if they go home and simply watch TV all night or go home and have to work, babysit, make supper, etc.? Yet they are low-income so we should make an exception? I'm not so sure.

  2. I can totally feel your pain on sending kids messages that they don't have to work hard. Don't we all want to develop kids who persevere when the going gets tough? I'm all right with modifying for individual students, but not to the degree that it sucks the entire essence out of the material or out of the learning process.
    I currently also have a parent who has demanded NO HW in algebra II. Thank goodness the student is gifted in math, but even with his superior talent I am spending tons of time monitoring and teaching the lessons individually and orally to get him ready for tests. It is working, for now, because the student is bright. But, what if another parent says that's not fair, I want my kid to have that option. What if a not so gifted kid wants to do it this way, and they need lots of practice. Even if only 5 parents put in this request...I would never have enough time to teach these kids individually the practice they could get by just putting in a little work by themselves. It is definately frustrating.

  3. It goes back to the question. Does homework teach responsibility? Many of you mentioned homework needing to have a balance, and I couldn't agree more. I think often times very little if at all thought is put in before assigning homework. I think we can get around this by asking this question, is it meaningful?

  4. As I parent I see that the task of homework does teach responsibility, especially for kids involved in other activities; however, the homework task may not. I know that my job as a mom is to make sure that I teach my kids about how to manage time and not feel exhausted or overwhelmed at the end of the day. But parenting has also taught me that not every student has that kind of support at home. So the question becomes, how can we better identify those kids and provide support here. Because if we are the adults in that child's life who can teach them valuable life lessons, then we had better step up.

  5. Students who complain about homework because of extracurricular activities or work is bogus! As a school-aged individual, their main job is school. These students can work when they are done with school or in the summer and if extracurricular activities are getting in their way of school then they should maybe not be playing. Most of our students are not going to college to play sports! To be successful in life, you need a good educational background. If there is homework involved in their education, then that is what they need to do. I'm pretty sure most jobs in the economy will involve time working at home. Should we have their parents call the boss and tell them not to have them work when they leave work???