From my Mailbox–A Former Principal Offers an Opinion

I got the following email from a former high school principal and current teacher who is located in British Columbia, Canada.

Dear Sara,

As a — past — high school principal and teacher… I have never seen the value of more than a little homework. And that ‘little’ has to be considered for its merit before it should be issued. I believe that there should be a ‘through’ line where kids are thinking about their studies and planning and preparing at home, but not homework in the traditional sense.

You know what I really really believe — not popular — homework is a way of lessening the demands of the teacher to teach during the day and giving them an out that says “here’s the work that has to be done — if you waste your time during class, you will have homework.” Or, “we have to get through x, y, and z, and you will have extra work at home because the curriculum is too much to be covered at school.” TEACH differently then!

Sorry. I get passionate about this. WE MUST TEACH DURING THE DAY AND HAVE THE STUDENTS WORK HARD IN CLASS. Then, other than planning and preparing, we are done. Our focus has to be on TEACHING students to organize, memorize, categorize, sort, and LEARN. We teach, they learn. That’s the contract. That’s the agreement. Parents aren’t teachers.

Anyways, thought I would drop you a line of support. I just got your site passed along to me about three minutes ago and that is my first volley of emotion.

I am currently back in the classroom, and I love teaching. My kids love my approach too. Stimulating and demanding during the day, but not too much more at night.

10 Comments on “From my Mailbox–A Former Principal Offers an Opinion”

  1. PsychMom says:

    To Former Principal

    How do we parents change the minds of those teachers and principals who have been teaching nigh on 25 years who “have always given homework and don’t believe a little homework hurt anyone”. There’s the heavy sighing and the brush off of “oh this always comes up” and “there’s been a debate about homework for years”, trivializing parents concerns and the research as just so much …….of the same thing they hear over and over and basically ignore.
    I’d love to hear what your approach would be to instigating change.

    April 29th, 2009 at 8:32 am
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  2. Former P says:

    Dear PsychMom. That’s a big question. I think that discussions and support at this site goes a long way to rallying like-minded people together to unite in a good cause. Spread this site address with everyone!
    Next, through a formal letter addressed to your elected school board, ask that they discuss and consider the merits of homework at a public board meeting. Having a few other letters of support arrive at the board office at the same time would be good as well. They have to take your formal request seriously, and are required to act on your letter. Try to be at the meeting where your letter comes up in the section titled ‘correspondence’. Also, invite a local paper to become interested in the discussion. Getting started in this way allows both sides to be heard, and makes the issue a public one — on the agenda and in the minutes of the meeting. From there you can build….
    I hope this is a helpful recipe. I can take some time over the next few days to refine it, but this is the general idea.
    Take Care.

    April 29th, 2009 at 10:13 am
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  3. Joe says:

    This is great — it’s so nice to hear sane words from a principal. We need more like you!

    April 29th, 2009 at 6:00 pm
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  4. Former P says:

    Thanks Joe. I appreciate the comment. I hope that all of us working together can bring sense to education. Sara has a great site going here. Let’s keep gathering and taking action. It will change if we want it to and if we stand up for what education really is and not the facade. Take care.

    April 29th, 2009 at 9:35 pm
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  5. Tanya says:

    I am a principal on the east coast of Canada. A large k-8 school of 800 kids. We are revisiting our homework policy/procedures to ensure that we have an equitable system in our school. We are aiming to have no homework, based on much homework.

    Read Alfie Kohn: The Homework Myth.

    Rocks.

    Homework is just one more structure to keep the marginalized down.

    Schools can do a better job teaching. And parents could assist with spending their energy in to just “being” with their children: talking, dreaming, playing, etc.

    My two cents

    May 8th, 2009 at 9:05 pm
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  6. Tanya says:

    Sorry, I meant:
    We are aiming to have no homework, based on much RESEARCH 🙂

    May 8th, 2009 at 9:06 pm
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  7. HomeworkBlues says:

    Tanya, I’m adopting you. When can you start at our school? Better yet, let’s do some time travel, I’ll move my family up there and it would be a privilege for my child to attend your school. What a breath of fresh air you are!

    We’ve had some mediocre educators writing in before. Lately there’s been a spate of sane, kind, thoughtful and smart ones posting. I’m so relieved. It restores a little faith.

    May 8th, 2009 at 9:59 pm
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  8. PsychMom says:

    To Tanya

    I’ve heard that the Halifax School Board is also reviewing the issue of homework…the East Coast of Canada could become the most enlightened part of the country as far as homework is concerned. Whew…what a relief.

    May 11th, 2009 at 10:23 am
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  9. High School Sophomore says:

    To PsychMom:

    I sympathize about the brush-off from the teachers who don’t think homework is that bad–I get that reaction a lot in my personal crusade against grades, too. You could try telling them, the problem is not so much that ‘a little homework never hurt anyone’ (although you can make the case that it does,) but that the homework isn’t HELPING anyone. And if it isn’t helping, the kids can probably find a better use for their time! Power of play and all that. If you need busy work and drill exercises to teach for you, go find a different job.

    May 19th, 2009 at 12:17 am
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  10. High School Sophomore says:

    Oooh, and Tanya, read Doing School by Denise pope, who runs challengesuccess.org. Then read Mindset by carol dweck.
    (actually, everybody should read those!)

    May 19th, 2009 at 12:19 am
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