Teacher Talk 001: Homework Blues

Today I’m starting a new “series” for the blog: Teacher Talk Tuesdays. While I can’t guarantee that I won’t talk about my kiddos on other days of the week, I can guarantee I WILL talk about them on Tuesdays. Here is my first Teacher Talk post. I would love any feedback or advice you have to offer! Happy Tuesday, folks!

HomeworkBlues

Homework. The type. The amount. The frequency. The time spent. Every teacher handles it differently. I am a firm believer that every class, every teacher, every situation is unique. There is not a single solution for all classrooms. But there is a need for balance.

Reading this blog post from a teacher I look up to (from the other side of the country, no less) helped validate the practices I try to implement in my classroom. Laura’s post is definitely worth the read.

At my school, students make homework seem like a terminal illness. Anytime I announce homework, I hear teeth-smacking, groans, and quiet(-ish) curses sent my way. When it comes time to turn in the homework, there is a typical 40-50% turn in rate. I tell you the truth. Despite our referral system in place to help students make up missing work, I still feel like I need to make changes to help students become more successful.

Like I said earlier, I think balance is key. I try not to give homework every night, or I give them several nights to complete the assignment. This allows my students who work nights or help care for siblings multiple chance to complete it. It also shows that I am human. (They often forget that.)

Homework is a necessary “evil” that cannot be ditched entirely with the limited time frame I have with my students. To get through the content, I must give homework. But I cannot count homework as something that works in my class when such a small percentage of students do it.

I feel like I go in circles trying to figure this out. Students needs to learn the responsibility and the consequences of not following through. I need to prepare them for their future classes and careers. But I also sympathize with the fact that their life outside of school is nothing like my life growing up. Many of them do not have a support system or parents that value education. Can I blame them for not being committed to homework when they don’t know where their next meal will come from or when their parents prioritize other things over school work?

So what do I do to make homework work for my low-income, high priority students? I’m in a homework funk and don’t know how to move forward. I love Laura’s ideas and I want to try them, but I’m also facing an upward hike with the issues that come along with teaching at a high priority school (limited book supply, students without Internet at home… the list goes on), so several of her concepts are not possible for me.

I would love to hear any advice or ideas you have. What do you do to make homework manageable for your students?

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