Jan 06

HW and Trust


Flickr Photo (cc)

Thinking about homework again I’ve heard some of the reasons for giving homework and it boils down to trust. It seems, by the way some teachers talk, that they don’t trust that parents are properly preparing their children. Some teachers worry that parents don’t read to their kids or don’t encourage their kids to read or don’t play math games or don’t teach their kids number sense, etc. So they feel that they are doing the right thing by forcing families to sign a reading log and forcing kids to do math worksheets (and I won’t tell you how often I’ve heard parents say that their child reads, they just didn’t get their logs signed). I’ve been teaching for 21 years now, this being my 22nd year, and I’ve been in a lot of parent conferences where the parent(s) ask us for help, where the parent(s) don’t know what to do, or where the parent(s) are too harsh or too lenient with their children (according to us as observers – purely opinion). We are in a profession where we can help families but, in my opinion, we are experts on learning and teaching not family psychology. That’s what we have school psychologists for and frankly I think all schools need access to mental health services above and beyond the one school psychologist.

I had been teaching for ten years before my wife and I had our first child who was actually adopted. I knew at every conference back then that I was not a parent and that just because I worked with children for seven hours a day for 180 days a year I was in no position to tell anyone how to parent. Even after having two children of my own I know that I am no expert in parenting and that children are so different and have so many needs that I cannot pass judgement on any parent. Heck, I sometimes don’t even feel like I can parent my own kids! So when it comes to homework why do we think we know better than a child’s parent(s)?

I understand that teachers are being pressured by standardized testing to make sure all their students are learning the same things and that their students be able to all show they know the same things. But developmentally we know that’s not possible. Kids develop at their own rate no matter how much we try to change that. Maybe it’s this pressure that makes teachers feel the need to provide more learning experiences at home whether parents ask for it or not. Then they punish the kids for not doing that extra work at home. I don’t know. This doesn’t seem right to me. Why can’t we trust parents to raise their own children the way they see fit? And if parents aren’t doing their job there are agencies to deal with that, like CPS. Should that be our job too?

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    • Pieter Kuiper on January 6, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Oh my, is one expected to teach one’s kid “number sense”? I never thought about that.

  1. Hey Al, it is interesting about “trust” as it works the other way too. HW is often a key for parents to use as a lens into what their child is learning. I remember being challenged that I was too easy and my kids weren’t learning because there was no HW coming home. What I realized was that the lack of communication from me to the parents was leading to many unknowns. Once I significantly changed my communication methods, the HW conversation became different. Also, I hear you on the trust angle you are discussing. I think we make the mistake that we must make parents accountable through HW – this can be a very difficult way to build relationships with parents.

  2. 🙂

  3. Great point, Chris! Imagine a world where the trust goes both ways! 🙂

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