Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Speaking of Parents...

CNN has an article in their Education section about homework. Many teachers have given in to the no homework movement started by the generation of parents who coddle their children because, oh my, we don't want him to feel bad. Now, my own experience in high school was that I could finish most of my work during my study hall. The rest I would take home and do. I hated busy work, but the mindless, time occupying assignments were handled easily. Today, students have many more options fo mindless, time occupying activities. I had my baseball cards and the Summer Olympics floppy disk for my Apple II C. I was really good at the BMX biking, but not so good at the surfing--typical for an East Coast boy.

There are some helpful hints for parents; unfortunately, I have the suspicion that the people who read CNN.com already do many of the ideas. But my favorite part of the article was reading about Sara Bennett of Brooklyn, New York who is co-authoring the book The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It. She says, "Homework was interfering with my kids' intellectual development," then adding, "To stop to practice spelling when your kid is reading a book is ridiculous." First, I'm not sure why she would stop to practice spelling when her kid is reading a book. The real issue is, why is it ridiculous? Oh, that's right, because her kids are brilliant, and brilliant people don't need to practice. Seriously, just ask Tiger Woods. I bet he doesn't ever stop to practice putting because he is a pro golfer. (sorry, I'm being petty; I'll stop.)

It is the parent like Ms. Bennet that has created a problem for me. Her attitude about homework carries over to what is done in the classroom. Essays are interfering with my kids' intellectual development. I mean, to make them write a one page response when your kid has already passed the state test is ridiculous. And furthermore, to make my kids' turn in assignments when they've already turned thousands in before getting to your class is outlandish.
Listen, I'm sure Ms. Bennet is a very nice woman. She clearly is looking out for her kids, and that's great. But removing homework from the classroom, at least, removing effective homework, is ridiculous. (Shades of Bill O'Reilly)

12 Comments:

At 7:51 AM , Anonymous Caryn said...

I so agree! Schools are held to ever-higher standards, and yet expected to assign less work. It's crazy. As a former English teacher (now school librarian), when, exactly, were my students supposed to get in those term papers while also studying the rest of the curriculum? And what about the reading they needed to do? Sure, we did much of the reading and writing in class, where it could be guided, but the kids do need to be responsible for fininshing it up on their own, especially as a) we had a very full curriculum and b) kids move at different speeds.

 
At 11:43 AM , Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Here's another consideration: Class lengths have become ever shorter as schools have been forced to add more and more classes to the school day without increasing the number of hours spent at school. I took six classes in junior high and high school, but my own children now take eight.

Homework is therefore crucial cog in the machinery. My favorite is a parent who was annoyed about expecting a student to do a research paper over six weeks, including loads of time spent in class. She claimed her child had a hockey tournament the weekend before the due date and demanded an extension. (Answer? The student had known about the tournament for 4 months, and so should have gotten the paper done beforehand, and as he was repeatedly caught IMing a friend or chatting in the computer lab instead of researching or typing, so-- No.)

 
At 12:07 PM , Anonymous MellowOut said...

I saw an editorial about this from USA Today (via My Yahoo!) about a week ago. It was written by one of the authors of the book, and it was so insane that the newspaper had a rebuttal editorial accompanying it. These women even admit to and even encourage other parents into doing their childrens' homework for them to "ease the burden". What bothers me most, though, is how the authors seem like the type of parents who have no problem taking their child to the overload of extracurricular activities that are keeping some students from fulfilling their first responsibility: their academics.

 
At 1:25 PM , Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

I thought the CNN article was excellent, although I don't know how many seniors are doing 3 hours of homework per night (15 minutes per grade level). It's nice to know that there are people out there who think we give too much homework, because I just finished a book by a guy who says we don't give enough (Michael Barone). I guess this just goes to prove that no matter what we do, somebody isn't going to be happy.

 
At 8:48 PM , Anonymous Mrs. Bog said...

You have brought up, and are addressing, some interesting topics.
I'd like someone out there to discuss group projects. All three of the Bog Children have found group projects a challenge.I try and tell them that working with people is a life skill. Eldest Bog Son says he hopes the people he works with, at least, have a clue. And he plans to be the boss anyway so he'll fire them if they perform as they do in high school and college. Bog Daughter says she'll just end up doing all the work anyway. As a grad student I have had three group projects and have found them stressful and eating up huge amounts of time.
But group projects seem to be the way to go. I'd like to hear some thoughts on them.

 
At 9:10 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Mrs. Bog,

Although the trend is to encourage students to work together, in a collective manner, I have made an effort to stay away from group projects. I know that when I have participated in these projects, I either carry more than my share, or, have been willing to let people carry me. I have seen more students stressed out over group projects, at least ones that really require intense focus, when students are forced to work together. But for the student that ends up in one of those groups that don't carry their weight, most efficient teachers recognize this and have methods for handling it.

 
At 11:37 PM , Blogger 40 said...

Homework is essential. A student can not get by in life by only working and thinking during the class period. Wait until that student grows up and realizes they need to get their budget done for whatever company they are working for... and they need to take it home and do it. Ouch. There is reality for you.

Homework for the sake of homework is never a good idea. But, when it helps connect lessons, reinforce learning, and stretch a student's mind... it is always worth it.

 
At 1:53 PM , Blogger Andrew said...

I teach university and I have never had a student fail because of a lack of brain power. The culprit is ALWAYS lack of good study habits. And trust me, when the kids get to college, they've got to work on their own time. And take good notes without the lecturer necessarily writing down every word for them, and read the text book, and study, and on and on. So when are students supposed to get ready for all of this if they don't have to show any personal time organization outside of class time in high school?

 
At 9:56 PM , Blogger Polski3 said...

IMO/experience, the minimum homework for grades 5-12 should be AT LEAST going over what was done in each class that day, reviewing/studying what has been presented/assigned for each class since the last quiz/test, and working on anything that they know is due in the near future, such as projects, term/research papers, book/story anaylsis' etc.

 
At 9:14 AM , Blogger K. Tidwell said...

Mr. McNamar -
It's K. Tidwell from what...class of 2005, I've been reading your blogs ever since you assigned the weekly blogging assignments, and I mean reading almost every single one of them and I wanted to let you know...that it's very rare that I disagree with you and even if I do I don't mind because of the no bull way you present what you say...well I guess I wanted to say...thank you for keeping intellectual reading in my life and I hope you don't stop blogging any time soon. (oh and by the way, I agree on this subject as well even though I never did my homework, people want to be to easy on us now, I swear its going to turn my entire generation into useless bastards) heh heh and my grammar's never going to get better : )

 
At 8:48 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Thanks for continuing to read the blog. It is nice to know that at least two of my former students continued to blog after it ceased to be an assignment.

 
At 4:25 PM , Anonymous aquiram said...

WOW...something I needed to think about again, before I start planning for the new year. I have read and re-read the articles for and against homework. I have been told to CHOOSE between a) doing all work in class so that most students get it done (notice the focus--getting it done) and b) assigning homework, dealing with no return, and NOT FAILING the students just because they don't do homework. Hmmmm....what a choice. I have tried both. Neither work. I do feel the stronger stance I take on homework and making it matter (not mindless busy work) the more response I get. I still have the few who never do homework and I can deal with them on an individual basis, but really, no homework for all? This is a small trend that will impact the US in a big way--lack of responsibility is already apparent. Should we as teachers really encourage this? I don't believe so.
Mr. McNamar also points out a truth that will be overshadowed unfortunately--where he mentions that why should tommy turn in another essay when he has passed the exams. That was a new refrain I heard throughout the year last year--why do I have to keep taking classes when I have passed my exit exam? Meaning today's students are equating success with a passing grade on an exit exam...scary thought!

 

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