Despite all evidence to the contrary, a myth seems to persist among students and parents that teachers relish giving out homework – the more, the better! This is especially sensitive when you start talking about the amount of homework elementary school children get assigned. I am was personally surprised when my first grader (now in second) started coming up with ample homework.
Homework can be a divisive issue between teachers and parents, especially if there is poor (or no) communication around the issue. It’s important to keep a dialogue open so that everyone understands that homework is part of the larger puzzle: A comprehensive, well-rounded educational experience for the student.
Here are 7 ideas to keep in mind:
1. Set expectations early. As much as possible, keep parents looped in about how much homework their kids can generally expect, per night and per week. Obviously, this is going to vary from child to child – not to mention throughout the year – but even rough guidelines can be helpful.
2. Explain why homework is necessary. As a parent, I really want to understand how much homework is expected of my children and whey. As an educator, you understand that sometimes the learning process has to extend beyond the four corners of the school day. This point isn’t always as clear to students and parents as you might think, so make a point to talk about it.
3. Help parents help with homework. Think of it as “Homework 101” for parents. Explain that their children optimally need a quiet, dedicated space at home to do homework, that leaving everything until after dinner is often a recipe for disaster, and the things parents should have on hand (such as basic research materials, like a print or online dictionary) to help their children succeed at the task. It’s imperative that parents try their hardest to provide the right environment for homework to get done.
4. Tell parents (politely) to not get overinvolved. We’ve all seen parents get too involved in homework, sometimes to the extent of doing entire projects all by themselves with nary a glance from the student. Oftentimes this is simply good intentions gone overboard. Clearly explain to parents the difference between facilitating their child’s homework (good; see above) and doing it for them (becoming helicopter parents; bad).
5. Stay positive about homework, and encourage parents to do the same. Just between us, we know that you teachers don’t like grading homework in the evenings any more than the kids like doing homework in the evenings – and that grading is often one of the least favorite parts of any teacher’s job. That having been said, it’s important to stay upbeat about the process so that parents and students don’t turn against it and get discouraged.
6. Post assignments in a central online location. MemberHub, of course, is perfect for this. You never want to encourage students to leave things to the last minute, but it happens. Help them (and their parents) out by making it easy for them to figure out what’s due when – even if inspiration doesn’t strike until 9:30 pm on a Saturday.
7. Reinforce your availability to talk about homework challenges. Sometimes, a student’s particular courseload can explode into a “perfect storm” of homework overwhelm at some point during the year. Sometimes a student may have procrastinated him- or herself into a homework pit of despair. And, sometimes, challenges with homework assignments can be a red flag for more serious issues that need to be addressed, such as learning differences or problems at home.
Whatever the problem, if you encourage parents and students to come to you with their questions and concerns, you are all far more likely to resolve the problem in a productive, satisfactory manner – rather than being unfairly flagged as “that teacher who gives too much homework.”