Nov 10 2009

Homework: Useful or Useless? A Teachers Perspective


By Lisa Garner

Let’s be honest!  Didn’t all of us enter the teaching profession so we could bore the living daylights out of countless numbers of children, require them to spend four excruciating hours slumped over their kitchen table doing homework every night, and turning families’ quiet evenings at home into a WWF Smack Down?  OF COURSE NOT! We aren’t the enemy, but why do so many parents think we’re out to destroy the lives of their children by assigning homework? Let’s face it, the real question isn’t whether we assign homework, but is the homework we are assigning relevant or just busy work?


Since “No Child Left Behind,” there have been far too many teachers being thrown under the school bus. Administrators are fixated on improving test scores but quality classroom time is at a minimum. Class trips, pep rallies, magazine drives, fire drills, lock downs, birthday parties, parent conferences, book fairs, H1N1 assemblies, class photos, and three day weekends are sucking up our precious class time like a sponge. As a result, many teachers feel pressured to send home unfinished class assignments for homework in addition to practice sheets to help improve their students’ standardized test scores.


Parents, on the other hand, are being stressed to the max. They’re expected to be wage earners, coaches, chauffeurs, and care takers. Instead of gathering around the kitchen table at night to have dinner together, many families are being forced to snag a chicken leg out of the KFC bucket and dash off to read email, text, or Twitter.


If we’re feeling the stress, imagine what it’s doing to our children?  In addition to their schoolwork, many children are also trying to juggle numerous after school activities and some kids are even attempting to raise themselves. As the stressors of daily life continue to rise, too much homework may be all that it takes to turn parents and children off to learning all together.


Unlike Glenda the Good Witch who spreads sweetness and light throughout the kingdom, there is no homework fairy to ease the nightly anguish associated with homework completion. There is no place like school to get the work done. Unfortunately, some teachers feel compelled to assign homework for several reasons: to give children the opportunity to practice, reinforce, and apply the key concepts and skills which they weren’t able to complete in class, to identify areas of concern, and often times to abide by numerous mandates set forth by the various school districts.


First of all, no one doubts the important role homework plays in educating our youth, but homework assignments need to be reasonable, relevant, and used to support classroom learning not replace it. We need to develop lifelong learners not formulaic pencil pushing robots that can mass produce completed worksheets or spit out spelling words like ticker tape. Homework needs to be assigned in moderation and used to stimulate creativity and develop critical thinking skills not stifle them.


Although the so called experts and homework gods suggest 10 minutes of homework per grade level per night, if the homework is meaningless, why assign it at all? Homework should be meaningful extensions of the material being covered in class and looked upon as an opportunity to develop lifelong learners who are well organized, able to manage their time effectively, and eager to learn. Well, what’s it going to be, quality or quantity? It’s your call.

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