Remember homework? Annoying drills, set # of words/sentences/pages, worksheets & mind-numbing readings. I hated every minute of it. I felt robbed each time I had to do it, but it was clear that there was never a choice. You did what you had to & you behaved. It was the 80s. In contrast I remember all the work I did on my own outside of high school classes with warmth: reading, writing, & music. Now as a teacher, I find I still hate homework and cannot bring myself to impose it upon my students.* Our time at home is our time (our family's time), right? Why would I push my job onto the laps of students and parents after hours?? If I was doing my job right, wouldn't the time I have in class be enough? IN FACT my students have had no homework the 3 years I've been teaching, and their SCORES… keep getting HIGHER each year as I refine my techniques & designs.
*(Full Disclosure: I offer a menu of activities (a ProPointMenu) for extra credit at all times. I think this is fair: you compensate for work done. If homework is always offered for extra credit with connected studies to that day's lesson plans, then students that need help & CARE ABOUT THEIR LEARNING will do more work. That would be extra credit work or practice in their minds and not homework.)
Today it feels like we are trying to skip over childhood. No elementary school student should have an hour of homework on average. They should not have any homework, EVER. Furthermore, I don't think homework works because when I'm choosing to do "homework" without being told, it is called "practice" or "study". The latter is choice-based & intrinsically motivated (which means awesome). No successful person ever referenced their time doing homework as well spent, but they do use the words "practice" and "study"consistently. If what we taught in schools was intrinsically motivating or used students' intrinsic motivations as catalysts for learning, study and practice would happen naturally. Students that take on responsibility & hard work begin Life earlier than their peers that don't partake.
When someone learns to master a skill, they really learn to master and control themselves enough to control something else to that degree. Great skill on bass didn't come naturally to me; it came from sitting still & focusing all my energy into my hands, arms, ears & mind. If we want students with work ethics, we need to STOP GIVING THEM HOMEWORK, and instead invite them to take on as much responsibility as they can handle.
They need to learn to work hard, to practice, to study, to reflect, to ponder, to dig in, to fail & regroup, to learn patience, to master something and be publicly recognized as mastering it.
Homework crushes the inner light of curiosity & wonder by filling those potential hours of free time with drudgery. We need to allow students to learn from themselves & their own experiences. They need the room to explore & grow, not more restrictions. They need to find a passion & pursue it whole-heartedly.
How to do this?
I think the only way I can do this is via technology: 1-to-1 laptop immersion. Without a wifi connection & the internet, how could I differentiate everything so effortlessly? How could I design projects that are professional, modern & connected to the market? How would I convince the students that I could help them be prepared for the future? I think we need to embrace this technology, the responsibility & a new way to approach "teaching". It's the only way we can be fair to all students, help them pursue their goals & help them gain the skills they'll need. Since every student is unique, learns in their own way & is on their own path...
Maybe teachers should be called Guides?