Monday, September 08, 2014

Must. Do. Homework!

I've decided that if one of my students complains about their spelling contract homework this week, I'm going to hand them the homework I have to do for my class and tell them to do that instead....and then see if they still want to complain next week.

Everyone has heard my thoughts on homework.  I'm not a fan.  Mostly because I know what it's like to have a life outside of school, and after working all day the last thing I want to do is spend all evening working on homework.  But despite everyone's opinions on homework, the truth is if a kid is going to college, they better get used to homework... but it's a big part of college life.

I have one class a week.  Just one.  But, I'm already overwhelmed by the amount of homework that I have this week.  And all I have to do is write up an article review, answer some chapter questions, and do a group project about a critical issue in education.  No biggie, right?  I mean, I have a whole week to do that.

What I thought was that I'd get it done on a weekend day.  And, if I had actually spent ALL day on my homework yesterday (the time between getting up and going to bed), I probably would have finished it all.  But I didn't, so I didn't.

My brain and my body just aren't equipped with the necessary patience to spend an ENTIRE day in front of the computer researching, reading, and typing answers.  I just can't do it.  Not only are my brain and my body not able to do it, but I also have other responsibilities that have to be taken care of, which interfere with that time.  I had laundry and grocery shopping to do, as well.

Being that I spent ALL day Saturday working in a concession stand, I didn't really want to spend my ENTIRE day yesterday doing homework... but the sad thing is, the several hours I did spend doing homework barely cracked a dent in to how much I had to do.

The absolute worst part was the fact that I spent two hours answering questions I didn't even have to answer.  We were given three pages of information and questions to read, and it wasn't until I was about two hours in (and only on the first page of questions) that I realized there was only one question on the page that I had to answer, and the rest were just to think about for the next class.  Not cool.  It wasn't my professor's fault.  He told us in the directions that we just had to answer the questions that were at the end of the chapter.  The problem came when I thought all the questions he had given us WERE the questions from the end of the chapter.  It wasn't until I got to the end of the chapter in the text book that I realized only one of the questions on the handout were actually from the chapter questions.  The rest of the questions had gone with the reading in order to drive our thinking process and prepare us for the discussions we'd have in our next class.  I didn't have to type up three pages of answers.  UGH!!

That was a big deflate to my ability to sit and focus.  To realize that I'd spent two hours working on something I didn't have to work on.  Had I spent those two hours only answering the questions I needed to, I would have been done with that assignment.  But, I didn't even get to the first question I had to answer before I gave up and moved to a different assignment.

I will say that I finished my portion of the group project.  I got my research and my opinion written out.  Now all I have to do is mesh it with my partner's piece and we can put together a full document and presentation.  But the two pages I did type up took me a couple of hours.  By the time I'd done the research, laid out the information I wanted to use, and written up the information so that I wasn't plagiarizing my sources I had spent almost two hours working on it.  The opinion piece didn't take near as long, because I could just type that.  There's so much more work and time needed when there's research involved.

It wouldn't be so bad if I had tonight to work on homework, but I have another class to attend for four hours.  Starting today, I'll be enrolled in two classes, but only going to one class a week.  The other class is a field experience class that I'll do on my own.  Tonight's meeting is to just explain what the expectations and requirements are for the field experience project that I'll turn in either in October or December (can't remember when).

What makes matters worse is the fact that I'm such a bad procrastinator.  I am also a huge hypocrite.  I preach to my own students about procrastination, and how bad it is to wait until the last minute because you never know what might happen, and then I turn around and do the same thing.  I never wanted to be one of those "do as I say, not as I do" teachers.  But, in my defense, I work much better under pressure.  I have had plenty of practice with that, yet it's something I regret getting in to the habit of doing.  It's why I'm so adamant with my own students about NOT being a procrastinator.  I've had plenty of years of experience, and I can handle staying up until 4AM to finish homework if I need to.  Those little kiddos don't need to be trying to do stuff like that at their age.  Besides, they have a spelling contract each week that should take no more than 30 minutes an evening to finish.  If they did that each night, it would be easy sailing.  However, some of them don't and then complain that they had to spend over 2 hours on homework on Thursday night because it's all due on Friday and they never touched it all week.

I know that problem all too well.  I'm still working on the article review that was supposed to be turned in last Wednesday.  Being that I was in Tennessee the weekend before, I didn't work on it.  Then class was cancelled on Wednesday, so I took that as having a whole extra week to get it done.  What ended up happening was me piling even more work on to the over flowing plate I had to take care of.  My bad, and something I won't do again.  Next time I get an assignment, I'm going to do it before the next class...regardless of whether or not the class gets cancelled or rescheduled.

I understand that my homework is an important part of my learning process, and vital for me to complete the required objectives for the class.  Meeting once a week for four hours over the course of eight weeks just isn't enough time for me to learn everything I need to learn from this class.  The homework portion gives me even more knowledge and experience with what this class is all about, and it's vital for earning the degree I'm pursuing.  Getting a Master's isn't easy, I never expected it to be.  It's just going to require some firm restrictions on my part to buckle down and do what I have to do.

These first two weeks have given me some insight on how the rest of the class is going to go, and now I understand that it can take up and over of two hours to do a single article review.  I understand that chapter questions aren't simply answering a question from the reading, but an entire research project.  I understand that a group project isn't as simple as creating a cute PowerPoint, but spending several hours researching and documenting sources, information, and opinions.  I have realized that in order for me to be successful in this class, I'm going to have to kiss ANY free time goodbye and really buckle down on prioritizing and time management.  There's no reason to give up what I already have on my busy calendar, I just have to realize that there may not be much time for me to relax and "chill" for the next 18 months.  If I spend an entire Saturday working for a fundraiser, I must know that I'm going to spend an entire Sunday working on homework.  I also need to move away from coming home from work each night and putting my feet up.  If I'm a little more organized, I could spend an hour an evening working on homework and then I wouldn't be too overwhelmed come the weekend...and I may even get a couple of hours on the weekend to relax, or at least take better care of my "mom duties".

One valuable lesson I have most definitely learned is the fact that school teachers just can't all jump on the "no homework" bandwagon.  I know that there are several teachers that don't like to give homework, and refuse to do so.  I'm one of those teachers that really don't like giving homework.  I give some spelling homework each week, but other than that I get to feeling all guilty if I ask students to take something home to finish.  I feel like they've spent enough time in class and shouldn't have to extend their school day in to their evening hours at home.  But, the harsh reality is, we're also a society that's moving towards more college preparation.  With Common Core and new state standards that are focusing on college readiness, we really need to think about the other ways we can prepare kids for college demands.  If a student spends the majority of their school life not receiving any homework, what's going to happen when they get in to college and realize that they have to spend 3-8 hours a week doing homework?  Sometimes even more.

And I'm all on the train that says that 3rd, 4th, and even 5th graders are too young to have too much homework.  That they are too young to have to worry about college readiness... but what about junior high and high school readiness?  I know that my Peanut is already feeling the weight of high school homework demands, because she wasn't prepared for the amount of homework a high school student receives.  In Junior High, her teachers were great about not giving homework.. or she was able to spend a small amount of time finishing up the tiny amounts of homework she did receive.  Now that she's in high school, she receives nightly homework assignments, often from more than one class, that could take her 1-3 hours and it's hard on her.  She just wasn't prepared for it.

So, even though I'm not a fan of homework, I really think that I need to rethink my own opinion.  I want my students to go to college when they graduate high school.  Will they all go?  Probably not.  But, I shouldn't be teaching to those that don't go, I should be encouraging them all to at least want to and seriously think about it.  Even in 4th grade.  Especially in 4th grade.  But, if I want to do that, I have to also face that fact that these kids need to be prepared for the volume of work they are going to receive.  Even if I'm just preparing them for what's awaiting in high school.  All I know is that having a no homework or minimal homework policy could be more detrimental to my students than having them take something home each night or a couple nights a week to work on.  If they don't get any homework now, or next year, or even the year after, they will eventually.  And then they'll be overwhelmed and will most likely struggle.

That doesn't mean that I'm going to start assigning an hour or two of homework each night.  It just means that I'm not going to feel so guilty anymore if I have to send a math assignment home to finish, or a science paper, or a grammar practice page.  If they have to take something home to work on, so be it.  I'm going to stop worrying about it, stop trying to fit enough time in to the day to give them time to finish any homework, and just remember that I'm helping prepare them for the future.  I know that there will be kids that don't do the homework, and the kids that will struggle with having homework.  But, being that I grade for effort, I need to further instill the importance in at least trying.  They just have to know, as do I, that it'll all be worth it in the end.

OK, I think I've said enough for today.

Have a great Monday, everyone!


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