Monday, September 30, 2013

The New Taboo Word . . . . HOMEWORK



(cartoon found on http://edum-5650-abbie-foristal-synthesis.wikispaces.com/Cooperative+Learning+%26+Homework+and+Practice)
I’ve thought of this topic off and on for the last few years and have thought of doing a blog post about it various times . . . . like when my cooperating teacher last semester said that parents got mad at her and complained if she gave homework on Fridays . . . . or when I read the blog post, “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever” and many of my friends agreed with that blogger. However, after each of those instances, I didn’t end up writing about it because things got busy and I forgot about it after a while, even though I voiced my opinions to my loving, tolerant, caring husband. 
The subject came up again after a friend posted how much she hated homework on Facebook . . . especially since she had already done homework when she was in school and now she was dealing with her kids’ homework. I commented wondering why she was doing her kids’ homework and mentioned how Richard and I are always here when our daughters need help, but we don’t overly push and we don’t get overly frustrated with it and they’re both mostly “A” students. Another friend commented saying that every kid is different and some need more help than others. The conversation continued with many people saying how much they hated it, or “just wait until high school,” and other various comments to the effect of how terrible homework is (or was) for them. 

This whole conversation got me thinking again. You see, I often feel I have different opinions than my friends and associates regarding many topics, and the highly dreaded word – almost more-so than a curse word – HOMEWORK – is no different. I see this word, and all it entails, with various perspectives. I understand this post may step on some toes, which is NOT my intention, but I feel it’s important to share my perspective. 

I was a student for elementary, middle school, and high school. I have been a college student various times in the past. I am currently a college student. This leads to PERSPECTIVE #1 – STUDENT. . . . . I can’t say that homework was necessarily “fun” as a student growing up, or the first time in college, or even this time around. However, I did see it as generally helpful to my learning. Of course, there were times (especially in high school) when I’d say an assignment was “stupid” or that I didn’t understand why I had to do such-and-such assignment because it was “pointless,” which was more the teenager in me talking than any kind of rational thought process. Deep down, I did know that even those “stupid” assignments were good in some way. Since I’ve pretty much always wanted to be a teacher, I think I may have also looked at homework in a different way than some students even 20-30 years ago. I loved learning from my teachers and taking things away from their lessons and how they taught. Maybe that’s one thing that just makes me the oddball out too. Even today, I was complaining to Richard about how an assignment didn’t make sense, but while expressing my opinion I also mentioned that I understood why I needed to have that particular experience for my teaching career even though I wished it was more fully explained as far as what the professor expects. I’m not trying to say that I haven’t ever complained about homework, because that would be an outright lie. However, I feel I have always understood the importance of homework in education even as a student. I also did not have excessive help from my own mother during my elementary, middle school, and high school years, which could also give me a different perspective than others regarding the amount of parental involvement. 

Next – I have been a parent now for 13 years. Our oldest daughter is now in 8th grade. She also participated in a half-day pre-K, so I’ve basically had almost 10 years of being a parent to someone who has had homework . . . Yes, even in the pre-K they had their version of homework. This leads me to PERSPECTIVE #2 – PARENT. The only time I ever really remember complaining about our daughters’ homework is when they were given a large project to do that had to be done within a timeframe that I considered unreasonable (like a few days) and with no information far enough in advance for us to add supplies for it to our budget. There have been plenty of times when I’ve had to wait until Richard got home to help the girls because I don’t do well at math. There are other times when I’ve had to rely on Google to help me out so I could help them with homework. However, for the most part we have not had to help them on a daily basis with homework. We have helped teach them the skills to do homework for themselves, and the school district has also taught them many resources for help and for being self sufficient in many ways. 

They have learned where to look for help in books or online, and they know they can ask us for help also. 
Finally, I have always wanted to be a teacher, and I’m currently in college to pursue that dream and to become a high school Spanish teacher. Therefore, PERSPECTIVE #3 – TEACHER, comes into play. As a soon-to-be teacher, especially a foreign language teacher, I see immense importance in homework. It is nearly impossible to learn a foreign language with only an hour of class per day and no homework and/or practice. There are too many vocabulary words, grammatical structures, verb forms, colloquial expressions, cultural information, etc., to master it simply by coming to class each day. Not only do I know this as a soon-to-be teacher, but also as a Spanish language student. As tedious as vocabulary memorization and practice may be, it is essential to the success of speaking the language. As horrible as I may sound (or may have sounded as a middle school or high school Spanish student) speaking the language in a very broken manner, it is an imperative part of learning to speak and improving fluency. Homework is a necessary tool in learning a foreign language, especially if someone plans on actually USING the language during their lifetime. Even if someone is taking a foreign language just to fulfill a requirement and has no intention on ever using it, there are still very valuable lessons that can be learned and applied to other aspects of life by means of homework accomplished during that foreign language class. I learned to respect other cultures and to see similarities in different groups of human beings by doing projects about other countries in my Spanish class. I learned that learning science terms could be tackled in the same way as Spanish vocabulary. I learned that there are a lot of interesting historical events in Hispanic countries just as there are in the United States. I even learned to look at math in a different way because of my Spanish classes. Therefore, as a soon-to-be teacher, I see the tremendous opportunity that homework opens up to students and the immense importance of that taboo word in broadening the horizons of life. 

After all is said and done, please understand that I do completely understand that there are children who need more help than others. I do not want to belittle children with learning disabilities or other challenges. I do not want to downplay the importance that parents have in the lives of their children and in encouraging them to excel. My point in this post is to share my own opinion and perspectives according to the different roles I’ve played, and continue to play, in my life, and also to express concern that there are parents out there who do way too much for their children and can hinder their learning instead of helping it grow. I know there is a fine line when trying to discover that line for yourself as a parent and I completely understand that each family and each child and each situation is different and unique and special. 

From a student, parent, and soon-to-be teacher who does not fear (and actually appreciates) the word HOMEWORK!!   

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