For the past too many years secondary education has been in a constant state of change. Being a retired teacher I clearly remember all the majestic programs guaranteeing to improve the education system in our nation and lead all of our children toward better and more fulfilling lives. Some of these include, ‘the open classroom’ in which walls were eliminated so our children could experience what promised to be the future of the work environment. ‘Differentiated learning’ asked all teachers to set up individual learning plans in order to make sure all of our children would succeed in the classroom. The infamous, ‘No Child Left Behind’ program that literally penalized school districts if it did not improve to a certain point every year. Our last education program was called, ‘Common Core’, that promised to unify all of our nations curriculums into one.
There were probably many other programs introduced and abandoned during the decades of which I taught. I remember them because I, and most educators, suffered through the statewide and district meetings that introduced their systems to make our education system the best in the world. I would have liked to spend the funds on new books and equipment necessary in my classroom so we could continue to have our education system be the best in the world.
The newest concept of improving the education of our children surrounds the concept of eliminating all homework assigned by teachers to their students. Many districts are now banning homework because of complaints of overload that stresses our children. Some districts are allowing homework but do not allow the teacher to grade it. This concept is above and beyond my comprehension.
As a teacher, even though a retired one, understand homework is a valuable tool. First of all it allows the student to practice what they learned in the classroom. This gives the student the responsibility to pay attention and thus understand the subject matter because they will be responsible to show this understanding of subject. Homework also teaches the student responsibility for their own education and thus future.
Stemming from the concept of homework is the concept of a reverse classroom. During the final years of my teaching tenure I experimented with a tangent to homework assigned. This procedure was to assign work before the classroom discussion. It allowed the student to research the subject matter before it was presented in the classroom. The classroom then wrapped around questions being asked by the students. It worked well with my AP students and because I retired before I worked this tactic into my teaching I don’t know if it would have been successful in all of my classes. I haven’t read any further research on this means of teaching.
The one concept of assigning homework that has been basically ignored was that the assigned work was a means of bringing the family together in the task of educating children. Many of my parents worked with their children at home in an attempt to have their child understand what was being presented before them. This time together overwhelmed all social media, television, and anything else most children like to do but because of the responsibility given to the child was given importance the child and family worked on it together. Many people laugh at this concept but it is reality, especially the reality of successful students.
There are many arguments against assigning homework. Many state we are stressing our students because of their many classes and extracurricular activities. Yet few argue that life is stress free and that all work places involve responsibility. Isn’t our education system defined around the concept of preparing our students and thus our children to what they will face in their future?
These ideas are coming from a retired teacher who enjoyed some success and regrets his failures.
Jim Fabiano is a retired teacher and writer living in York, Maine
You can contact Jim at: firstname.lastname@example.org