Monday, March 17, 2014

My Biggest Teaching Mistake

Homework.  I cringe when I hear the word.  When I first started teaching 3rd grade ten years ago,  I gave a lot of homework to my little eight year olds.  There was a packet, a reading log, nightly math assignments, not to mention the projects... the list goes on. Homework was what I thought the parents wanted.  I thought it would make my students smarter and ready for 4th grade.  I thought I was helping my students achieve greatness, but I thought wrong.

 I was putting a strain on their already way-over scheduled little lives, more stress on their families, and sucking the soul out of their creativity, and I didn't even realize it.  I also couldn't take grades on the homework because half of the time I could tell that the parents were completing the projects rather than the kids.  It was helping no one.

I would have been far better off giving my kids time to be kids.  They needed to be riding bikes around the neighborhood, playing house, and having robot wars in their backyards.  I cannot stress the importance of small ones becoming veterinarians, making forts in the woods, and pretending to be singers while having dance contests on their balconies.

The reason this free play is so important is because it allows the kids to learn life lessons of kindness, compassion, empathy, and imagination.  This is when kids learn how to share, include others, and how to think outside of the box.  If students are so bogged down with homework, or activity after activity like ballet, piano, baseball, soccer, tutoring, swim, and chess club back to back, then when do they learn how to relax, imagine, and create or just kick back and have fun? 

So, what do I do about homework now? I have not abolished it all together.  I give my students time to work on the math link at school before the day is out.  And I still do assign 20 minutes of nightly reading and have a parent verify that it was completed. But that is where I stop.  My kids need to be kids.  What is your stance?

Here is another article on the subject in case you are interested:

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