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This looks like a blog post, but really it’s just an extended tweet.  This morning, @critchie17 posted this on Twitter:  @timgels I am wondering how you and other teachers feel about homework in general? or am I opening a can of worms?

 I imagine that it was prompted by a tweet that I posted in which I linked to a NYTimes blogpost entitled “The Crush of Summer Homework.” 

Are you following all of this?  Anyway, here are my thoughts on homework.  Remember, I teach third grade.  If I taught kindergarten or high school I’d have a different opinion, I’m sure.

I believe that homework is, for the most part, assigned at the elementary school level because, well, homework is supposed to be assigned at the elementary school level.  That whole “ten minutes per grade level” business.  I don’t buy it, to tell you the truth.  I could go on for quite a while, but since my wife’s out cutting the grass and I’m not, I’ll keep it short and simply make a few points in defense of my position.

  • The kid who needs it probably isn’t going to do it, and the kid who doesn’t really need the additional “independent practice” (because, after all, that’s what homework is, isn’t it?) is going to skip something worthwhile to do it if it kills him.
  • We worked with (pick a subject) for an hour in class.  Orientation to the lesson, instruction, guided practice, independent practice, the whole nine yards: does a third-grader need more than an hour of a given subject in a 24 hour period?
  • The student goes home, makes a good faith effort, and does almost every problem wrong.  Did I really want her to reinforce her mistake for that long?
  • Honestly, I’m not going to collect it, grade it, and return it for the instant feedback that is ideal.  That’s a problem on my end.
  • Kids have enough in the evenings, and parents have even more. That’s an entirely different blog post (or book), but it’s reality.  I don’t need to exacerbate a bad situation that leaves a pre-adolescent bleary eyed at 7:30 A.M.

That’s it for now.  Thoughts, anyone?

PS: In case you’re curious, I think homework below the third grade is, well, um, not good.

PPS: Hey, it’s a public forum we’re running here…

Is it just me, or do teachers have a default answer of “no?”  If you asked me, I would tell you that I’m respectful of my students, and that I’m open to a lot of different things in my classroom.  Really, that’s what I would say.

I’ve been catching myself, though, saying “no” without actually thinking things through.  Actually, it’s not a matter of me literally saying “no,” but rather that type of attitude. 

This is tough to spell out, so before I meander further let me give an example.  A student is on a 24″ stool reading. Well, his chest is on the stool, his legs are hanging down, his arms are hanging down, and his book is dangling just above the floor. I guess that counts as being on a stool.  I was about to tell him to take a seat and get comfortable (after all, I want my students to be comfortable so they’ll read), when I caught myself, actually looked at him, and realized that he was comfortable.  Um, I couldn’t be comfortable like that, but he was. Why did it bother me?

I can’t be sure, but I think it’s safe to say that if the bonehead teacher (me) put an end to that student’s reverie, more than just his posture would have been over.

Oddly enough, 8-9 year olds can sit (or whatever) differently than a 44 year old man.  Who’da thunk it?

1/18 of the school year is behind us.

Incredible.

I’ve never thought of it that way, and it’s a little sobering to do so.

That said, I’m feelin’ good about it!  School has, indeed, been rolling along for the last two weeks and I’ve actually accomplished almost all that I wanted the class to do.  My emphasis with the students this year has been establishing routines.  I’m a little slow, my wife likes to say, but I get there.  In the past, I’ve sort of tried to establish working routines in the middle of the year (bad plan), but things never really worked out.  This time (hey, it’s only been three years, I’m getting there), I’ve actually implemented AND ENFORCED/MAINTAINED these routines at the beginning of the year.  Good thing, too, because if I hadn’t, this year’s situation would seriously reach up and bite me in the backside.

Concerning my last post: I’m puttering less.  Again, good thing, too, because this year could definitely be a reach up and bite me…  well, you know.

It’s hard to believe that I’ll have students in the morning.  I’ve been thinking about the year ahead, of course, and I’m eager to see how things are going to go. 

Back in June I posted a list of goals for the upcoming year.  I suppose I still have the same goals, but I’ve been pondering a way to wrap them up into a single statement.  I haven’t figured that one out yet, but I have come up with this: Make the best use of the time I’ve been given by living, teaching, and developing my relationships deliberately. 

Deliberately: that’s a tough word for me to live up to.  Honestly, I’ve got a reputation as a putterer and a ponderer.  A daydreamer that is easily distracted, even.  That translates to a lot of time standing and thinking.  I’m certain that there’s some value in that (after all, I’ve done it for so many years), but I’d like to cut back on it. 

Puttering and pondering puts me an hour past the student departure time with no significant activity on my part since they walked out the door.  I know it’s good to relax, but I’ve got to learn to redeem that time.  If nothing else, I need to close the door and go home (a great use of the time in my mind).

I’ll leave that partial thought here for now.

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