What Teachers Need to Know about Homework
Having my own child in middle school the past few years has provided my teacher self some fresh, brutally honest insight into the perspective of a middle school student. I have learned a lot from listening to Lily’s opinions and ideas.
Recently we’ve talked a lot about homework. Our conversations – and seeing firsthand what it’s like for her to get home late from sports and then try to do homework before bedtime – inspired me to ask her if she’d be willing to share her ideas and experiences with teachers. She was eager and excited. I’m happy to introduce my daughter and her thoughts on homework. – Kasey Short
By Lily Strickland
Dear Middle School Teachers,
As an 8th grade student, I think it would be helpful for you to hear a kid’s perspective and advice about homework.
I know my teachers care about their students, but I am not sure they always understand the impact of assigning homework on students and what it is really like for kids my age when they get home from school.
Being a middle school kid is stressful, and when we have hours of homework it adds lots of stress. Teachers say they are giving homework to help us learn, but when we feel this kind of stress it lowers our performance on the homework and school in general.
This stress also impacts our mood and can make it difficult to sleep because we are worried. Homework is also often the main reason that students are not getting enough sleep and then have a more difficult time focusing the next day in class and finding the energy to do well at sports practice.
Since the start of middle school teachers have given the advice that we should put our cell phones away while doing schoolwork and warn us about technology distracting us from homework. What I am not sure they realize is that many of the reasons it is difficult for us to focus at home are out of our control. We go home to siblings, pets, and parents who are distracting and loud, want our attention, and often don’t understand how much work we need to do.
Teachers also talk about time management but don’t seem to understand how little time we have. Most nights after sports practice, I have around two and a half hours between when I get home and when I should go to bed. That is not a lot of time to shower, have dinner, get ready for the next day, and do between one and two hours of homework.
Teachers also need to know that when work is done at home it isn’t always done by the student. When we do work at school, students think about the questions and work through it themselves. At home they are often tired and stressed and sometimes resort to looking up the answer online or asking their friends for answers. That then puts other kids in a bad position of having to tell their friends they won’t help or risk getting in trouble.
Six ideas for teachers
I do understand that there are times when kids need to do schoolwork at home, and I think there are a few things some teachers do and other teachers could try that are good and would help kids.
1. When assigning practice problems or activities consider how much practice kids need and make some of the practice optional for those who need it most. It helps me to practice things like math and vocab, but there is often more assigned than I need to do to feel confident I know how to do the work.
2. Please don’t introduce new concepts in homework assignments. It is stressful to try something new without your teacher when you are tired from a long day and dealing with distractions at home.
3. We often learn just as much in classes that give very little or no homework as classes that give homework every night! The teachers can teach us as much information by using the time in class effectively and spending all the time focusing on learning. Kids appreciate teachers who don’t waste time in class or don’t let other kids take over and distract everyone.
4. It is really helpful when teachers give more than one day to complete homework assignments or give the assignments in advance. This lets kids plan around sports and other after school activities. Many homework assignments are given one day and due the next day, and kids have to complete all the work that night regardless of what other things are going on or how late they got home.
5. Weekend homework is better than weekday homework. Even on the busiest weekend, I have more time in those two days than in a single school night. (Ask your students about this.)
6. Teachers always want kids to read but don’t realize that by the time we have finished all our other homework we are often too tired to read for fun. Instead of specific homework, teachers could encourage reading for fun. I know that for me reading reduces stress and I learn a lot as well. It would be important if teachers did this to remember that reading is difficult for some students and that audiobooks would be a great option for them.
Can homework be graded fairly?
When thinking about grading homework, I think it is important for teachers to know that when kids do work at home some kids automatically have advantages and other kids have disadvantages.
When we do work at school, we all are in the same environment and have the same adults who can help us and hold us accountable. Once we take the work home everyone’s situation is different.
I know some kids have parents who basically do their homework or at least give them more help than I bet teachers know about . Other kids may not have that kind of help or have stressful things going on at home that make it difficult for them to focus.
8th Grade Student
Feature image – Bigstock
Homework has a very low score on John Hattie’s researched list of instructional methods. I have been very successful with non-homework. I spend 10 minutes explaining and the students spend 40 minutes working while I wander around and help, supervise, organize, and direct. They help each other. The one-sheet two-sided assignment is due at the end of the period, and it is graded. I go home 30 minutes after the kids, and all my papers are graded. My math students improve 2.5 to 3 grade levels in one year (every year). Other teachers who use the non-homework approach achieve similar results.