Diary of a Student Teacher: Homework, but why?

timberI was reflecting on my practicum experience over a coffee with a non-teacher friend today when the topic turned to homework and I quickly stated how I don’t see the point in homework.  She was shocked at me for uttering those words as for many of us homework was our school experience.  Hours of classwork at school then going home to endure more of the same tedious work by ourselves to ensure we ticked the box on our report card and to make sure that we kept our head above the 50% failure line (pre-NCEA).

I didn’t realise this was how I felt until the moment struck me while observing a class for the first time on placement.  The teacher gave out a new piece of work and stated in the same breath that the students would be ‘expected to spend at least an hour each night’ on it.  Really, I though, why? I looked through the new assignment and started to think how I would craft lessons if I was taking this class (and I let my mind wander into that great creative space that I have enjoyed playing in this year).  However back to reality I looked around the room full of silent students looking at this document as the teacher read it out verbatim. They were bored and actually so was I.

Surely if the students loved what they were working on, were hooked into the assignment then every minute of the next 19 lessons would be enough to get this task done? And surely if the students were enjoying it then some out of class time would happily be swallowed up to polish, or even better yet delve deeper into some new facet of the assignment out of pure enjoyment.  Surely if the students were engaged in the learning then why set compulsory homework?   I see it as busy work and compliance pretending to be learning.

I did the math, if each student was doing 5 subjects and if all their teachers were dishing out ‘at least an hour’ of homework a night = 5 hours.  Lets say they get home from school at about 4pm then its pretty much homework all night, no play, no family time and actually no time to even stop for dinner! Yip that’ll surely turn students off the new assignment and pretty much off their learning entirely.  To me it feels a little like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff – homework used to tidy up and catch up.  And surely that’s the wrong way to think about it?

Instead shouldn’t the focus be on ensuring as a teacher that I am engaging students to want to participate and want to discover the magic in an assignment.  Actually, wait,  shouldn’t it start with creating fun and enjoyable tasks that support students on their own journey?

So my issue really is with compulsory homework, not all homework because the way I see it if a student is super engaged with what they are learning about then naturally they will want to continue to explore and discovery even after the 3.30pm bell.

However all that being said I haven’t earned my wings yet and still currently sit under the ‘Student Teacher’ title so I am hypothetically placing myself in the teacher role – even so I do hope that I don’t dull to these traditional paradigms and don’t stop asking, ‘but why?’

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