I spent the majority of my career as a second-grade teacher. I loved teaching children at that age. The kids came to school happy to see me, happy to be at school, and even requested homework from time to time. I don’t assume it was the actual work that they wanted, but the I’m-big-stuff-now feeling that came with homework and the assignment of letter grades. They wanted As and Bs on their papers rather than stickers, smileys, or even percentage points. Most had heard older siblings, neighbors, or fellow bus riders discussing the letter grade system, and they were eager to earn their stripes.
The thing is, I bristled against these traditional classroom systems even as a brand-new teacher. I wanted them to love learning for the sake of learning. I wanted them to have their afternoons and evenings free to play outside, be with their families, and participate in extracurricular activities. Yes, I may have been a bit starry-eyed based on my own childhood, but what I didn’t want was to send my students home with a night full of needless homework. Some students need extra practice on a skill or concept. But all students don’t need the same homework assignment every night. So, see, I’m not saying all homework is evil. I’m just saying the traditional look at homework is outdated, unnecessary, and in some extreme cases, detrimental to learning.
This year my daughter is in seventh grade. She had a student teacher for part of her semester. Often she would come home with anywhere between 20-30 math problems to do each night. It was all this educator-mom could do to hold my tongue on the ridiculousness of those assignments. If a student already understands how to work the problems, then 20-30 more of them at night is enough to make any kid hate school. If they don’t understand the work, then 20-30 problems to do at home (where the majority of parents can’t/won’t help seventh graders on their math) is enough to cause a breakdown. And what are the students learning from these kinds of assignments? And do they even see how this links to their everyday life? And do not even get me started on graded reading logs!
Often, homework has become synonymous with school work. But let me tell you something, kids don’t need homework to succeed in life. You know what they need? Time to be kids.