Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

The Homework Debate

Ah, the homework debate. Some parents love it and ask for more and more, others hate it and wish it was sent into space where it got sucked into a black hole never to be seen again. As a teacher, I don’t love it and I don’t hate it. I find it practical and beneficial though.

My class and I had a conversation the other day about why they think homework is important for them. This was not discussed previously or my words put into their mouths. We were actually discussing lots of things – importance of schooling, personal and class goals, how we could achieve them, what we wanted our classroom/school to be like, etc. For the homework question, points were raised such as: so I can learn more, so mum and dad know what I’m doing in school, so I can practice at my own pace and catch up if I need to, so I don’t fall behind, so I get good marks cause it helps my brain get smarter, so if I don’t understand something at the same time as everyone else I can spend more time on it at home and learn it then, etc.

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

The Queensland Government recommends:

Years 1-3: Could be up to but generally not more than 1 hour per week.

Years 4-5: Could be up to but generally not more than 2-3 hours per week.

Years 6-7: Could be up to but generally not more than 3-4 hours per week.

Years 8-9: Could be up to but generally not more than 5 hours per week.

Years 10-12: The amount of time devoted to homework and independent study will vary according to the student’s learning needs and individual program of learning, determined through their Senior Education and Training (SET) Plan.

So if every other student in every other school and state in Australia are doing this kind of work at home and we don’t think it is important so we don’t do it, then what happens when we are trying to get a placement in uni or more importantly a job in the workplace against all these other people? Or we are just simply struggling to understand a few things and as we go through the schooling years, concepts get built on top of foundational ones and so on….and we haven’t grasped the foundational ones yet. There is only so much a teacher and school can do. For instance, when I played volleyball for New South Wales our coach trained us HARD. But if I wanted to succeed above others (and to be selected for the NSW team) I had to put in an effort on my own accord. I had to practice by myself, eat well, exercised my body…all outside of the time my coach could practically invest in me. If I just relied on what my coach could give me, then I would have been the same as the others who did what he said. To get ahead, I had to do extra. It’s that simple.

Homework isn’t meant to be about new concepts. It is supposed to be revising and going over things they have already been doing in class to concrete it in their brains, with maybe a few new challenges chucked in for good measure. We (teachers) do not have time to go back over and over and over the simple concepts we have already taught in class for the following days and weeks as we have a gazillion other things to cover in class as well. We hope that students are putting aside 15-30 minutes in the afternoon to practice it.

I don’t know about you but I still have ‘homework’ to do for my job. So do both my parents – a builder and a theatre nurse. Doing work at home is a good habit to get in to and is a part of life whether you like it or not. The argument that kids should just be kids is true and I agree – and part of being a kid is continuing your learning at home as you try to understand new things. After all, practice makes perfect right….or at least makes it easier for the kids as they go along.

In saying all this, I do believe that there is such a thing as too much homework…but that is a whole different topic! 🙂

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work I go!

I’m just sitting here in my classroom while waiting for my next parent teacher interview (which is in 1 1/2hrs). I thought I would eat my dinner and write about one of my loves.

Some days I have to remind myself why I love my job so much. Mainly so I can smile and feel an immense joy in the amazing blessing God has bestowed on me – I work at a beautiful, caring school that is striving for excellence in all students. I work with a bunch of incredibly hard-working, devoted staff. Not many people can say that they work in a place that they are in love with. My class is close to heaven and I get to spend my day exploring the world and discovering new things with them. Not only do I get to teach them, they teach me – I love how we work together as a unit and are passionate about our learning.

My style of teaching is to gradually release responsibility to my students as they gain expertise, teaching a few strategies of great consequences in-depth over time, and giving children the gifts of time, choice, response, community, and structure. I try to explicitly teach concepts and balance that with inquiry, exploration and discovery. If you walked in to my classroom, you could catch us deep discussion with one another or moving about the room trying to achieve a goal we have set together or as individuals. I love my job!

One of my students and I during our class celebration of the 'Gold Rush'.

Working out some tricky Maths stuff in the 'Maths Zone' in our classroom before we go off and work in small groups.

Don’t get me wrong – I have my yucky days like anyone else. Those yucky days rarely are the product of my students or my environment, it is usually lack of sleep, too much to do in a short space of time, or purely just frustration with the direction teaching is headed. Teachers hands are being tied behind our backs more and more as we are required to push, push, push students to meet National standards at the highest end possible. It is so crucial to stay focussed on what education is about and not get caught up in all the politics that education is getting tangled up in – it is to instill a love of learning in your students so they can be the very best that they can possibly be. There is nothing more important than that!