It Goes with the Territory.

15 05 2012

This afternoon, I had two very similar conversations with parents that included this sentence:

“I ask him every evening if he has homework, and he always says no.”

Actually, I believe I’ve had this same conversation four times in the past week, and twice more the week before that. I have to choke back the sarcasm. “Really,” I think. “Your child isn’t being completely honest with you? What possible motivation could they have for that?”

Maybe I’m not completely objective, but since this exchange stems from the “Why is my kid failing your class?” or “How can my kid bring up her grade?” conversation, I would think the problem would be more obvious. The kid’s getting a bad grade. The kid’s missing a bunch of assignments and/or has low scores on the stuff he’s turned in. But he never seems to bring home anything to work on, and denies that he ever has any homework. Where’s the disconnect?

Part of it’s my fault, I guess. At least in that I’m not an advocate of mandatory, every day homework assignments. I teach middle school English/Language Arts. My students do independent reading for Accelerated Reader, and have regular papers and projects that require work outside of class. I tend to go with the “if you don’t finish it in class, it’s homework” rule.

That creates a problem when the kids go home and say, “I finished it in class.”

I’ve seen a few solutions to the “homework dilemma” in practice, although I’m sure there are many more:

1. No homework, ever. Everything gets done in class.

2. Daily homework assignments. You have homework every day, period.

3. Journal, planner, agenda, or some other sort of accountability mechanism. Assignments are written down every day, and the parent signs or initials it to show they know what their child is supposed to be doing for class.

I lean toward the third option. It does have some drawbacks, such as parents falling for the “I did it in class” excuse. But at least it serves as a way to communicate important assignments, dates, and deadlines to parents, and makes them a part of the process. And I love involving parents in any way that I can.

Feel free to post your thoughts and experiences in the comments. I’m curious to hear what other teachers are trying, and even what works for you as a parent or student!

– dEV

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4 responses

15 05 2012
Kristin

I know what you mean about these silly questions that get asked by parents repeatedly. I like the agenda as a checking mechanism. If the child says they did it in class though, all the parent has to do is ask to see the completed assignment or email the teacher to confirm…takes 5 minutes. NO EXCUSES!!!

16 05 2012
Crystal

Have you considered regular emails or a Facebook/blog for your class? At the beginning of the year, I ask for an email address from each parent that they check daily, and I have those for 30 out of 32 this year. I send out a quick email almost daily, just by hitting “reply all” to the first one I sent (BCC’ing everyone), to remind parents what the homework is, when tests are coming up, school events, etc. It takes maybe 5-10 minutes and is a great accountability tool b/c kids know I can contact their parents instantly whenever I want, and vice versa. It also makes it really quick to send behavior updates or other reminders to individual kids’ parents. If I have time, I might also include links to sites where kids can practice stuff we’re learning about, and stuff like that. Some parents tell me all the time that they LOVE always knowing what’s going on; a couple seem to never check their email; and most read but never reply, so it’s not like I’m in the midst of 30 email exchanges every day or anything. šŸ™‚

17 05 2012
devrick

I’ve tried something similar with Twitter, and it just wasn’t getting used. This was a couple years back, though. My tentative plan for next year is to set up a WordPress blog for my class, and set it to update a Twitter feed when I post something new. E-mail’s been hit-or-miss with me. I love it, and the parents who use it also love communicating that way, but it seems that people are moving to texting and social networking for their day-to-day communications, and using e-mail less and less.

19 05 2012
ashley

first of all i love the picture. and i think my dad would agree with it the most. he says the parents are currently the hard part of teaching. (hes now retired) when i was younger my parents made me a schedule that was on the fridge. it had come as a result because i had forgotten to turn in a few assignments. before i could go outside or watch tv each night i had to have everything on this list checked off. sadly enough i don’t know if a lot of parents are involved enough with their kids to do something like that anymore. i hate that it is your .. or any teachers responsibility to make sure the kids are doing their homework. i know it is probably unrealistic but i wish parents set up a time to see what their kids learned during the day. i think as least if you send out emails that its no longer your fault if the kids do not turn something in. or what about an online calendar that you can update each day that is visible to everyone? maybe when its updated it sends out a text? i hope you figure something out! good luck!

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