A few weeks ago, I received an email from Dale O’Dair, the father of a first-grader in Niagara Falls, Canada. Dale, who holds a post-graduate degree and whose mother is a retired teacher, was fed up on the Wednesday he wrote me, because he had already spent 3 to 4 hours that week helping his daughter with her homework. He wrote, “I have time in my schedule to start a campaign to find the silent majority of parents in the Niagara Board who oppose excessive homework for primary students and start petitioning the Board to drop primary homework or minimize it.”
Read what happened next. If only we all could have it so easy!
A Little Talk with the Teacher Goes a Long Way
by Dale O’Dair
I spoke to the District School Board of Niagara and they gave me the usual “we can’t do anything until you talk to the teacher and principal routine and then we’ll have the responsible superintendent deal with your grievance.”
I went to the school before classes last Tuesday armed with a lot of information, samples of homework, work we had done on our own to get ahead of the curriculum, the entire grade one curriculum, and a lot of advice from my extended family of teachers who all quit or retired around 1997. I was already going in to discuss the group seating arrangements and figured I would go through the motions with my homework concerns.
In my daughter’s journal the very next day was a note from the principal and teachers of Grade 1 and 2 that, beginning immediately, they would cease to issue homework booklets. The kids would receive no more than 5 minutes of homework, 4 nights a week, and in that time they were to practice their 5 wall words a week. The maximum would be increased to 10 minutes in Grade 2.
They noted that there had been parental concern and apologized for any misunderstanding, since they had not realized that the homework was taking three hours a week. They also stressed that these new restrictions were in line with the 1997 Ontario curriculum concerning the Ministry’s suggestions on homework.
I don’t remember everything that we discussed in our rapid fire 25 minute meeting but it worked. The homework was a result of a few over-zealous parents who demanded more, and my argument that the silent majority of parents were opposed but didn’t want to appear lazy or uncaring was accepted.
It was all too easy. So with that out of the way for the next two years, I am going to find out from the Board what their official stance is on homework. It does not appear that it will be a problem with this principal at this school for the near future.