I don’t need research reports to tell me how to feel on this one. I don’t need to take some sort of grad seminar to convince me differently. I have been in the classroom for over 8 years at this point. All of that time I have been teaching college writing. I also have raised three girls, so I see it from a parent’s perspective.
Kids don’t need hours upon hours of homework to prove they are worthy of the high school diploma. I think sometimes we forget they are kids. And yes I say we because I have been that instructor. I have been it regularly.
Yes I may ruffle feathers, but is our goal to take every ounce of their childhood time left over at the end of the day even at 16, 17 and 18? Because if this is your goal then nope. Nope I don’t accept it.
Students are spending 8+ hours with us in our classrooms and then coming home and doing 2+ hours of homework (this is definitely on the lighter side) for us. Do we need to teach them material and work ethic with our assignments? Heck yes! They need to understand the importance of working for what you need and want. They do need to understand it takes hard work to get there. But I think we may have been skewed in methods of getting there.
Burying them in work so that they are forced to become mini-adults and machines pumping out work for us that in the end sit on our desk for assessment. I respect my profession way too much to tell others what they should be doing in their classroom. Basically, I won’t presume to know the best way to teach math or social sciences or any other course than my own. Heck I would even venture to tell my English colleagues what they should and need to do.
But what I will say for the last two years I have changed the way I teach. I teach dual credit college writing, dual credit college speech, dual credit children’s literature, English 9, Mass Media and SAT Prep. I find that smaller assignments in class with me and often partially carried over at home are more beneficial.
For example, in my college writing course we recently had a lesson on analysis of scholarly writing. In class, I taught them how to break down an author’s arguments in a table. You know argument as table top and the supporting evidence as the legs of the table. I taught it like a mathematical formula. We called them artistic proofs and centered around the rhetorical language of academe. This took about 1 and half class periods. No homework and lots of working with one another and lots of working me as a guide and observer.
Then I gave my students about half of the class period to write a one and a half page MLA formatted response paper for me. It wasn’t enough time to finish in class, but was enough time to let work with me for awhile, work with their partner for awhile and we did this all in google docs so I could see it all. They had a little that required them to work at home, but it didn’t bury them.
Can I tell you how many kids felt like that process was helpful. They mostly taught themselves how to break down academic language. I gave them the tools and they did it. Does giving them an hour worth of homework every night achieve the same. Maybe it does.
But in that weeks time they probably had 20-30 minutes of work from me and made progress as college writers that me assigning a 5 page paper and letting them go at it at home alone would not accomplish. I didn’t bury them. It was chunked out in class with me directing, me observing and then on their own.
Just the same when we are reading for my course. Anyone else struggle with students that don’t read? Yea if you don’t, I don’t believe you. There is nothing worse than that observation that inevitably happens when someone hasn’t read. So yea I do a lot of our reading together. If we read together then I spend less time in the battle of teaching to students who don’t know what is going on. I end up frustrated and they end up frustrated with me.
The reality is that I sometimes have to assign reading because I do teach college classes and English classes, but I set up my classes so that required reading is imperative to do because if not you won’t be prepared and stakes are too high to not. But they also know that the more we get done in class the better off their homework load will be. It is a pact we make and so far it works.
I have results teachers. I have positive results. I am doing something right because I have the evidence to prove it. Now I understand and will make the statement that college is a very different thing. It requires work and it requires tons of self discipline, but I will say I am teaching high school kids college courses, so I am consistently striking an odd balance between you are a college student, but also a high school kid. I teach juniors in high school who are basically freshmen in college. This works for all of us.
To be in MR’s classroom….. – MR