From a Former Teacher

Today I am highlighting a Comment posted by a former teacher:

I don’t remember what bunny trail led me to your blog, but I have a few general comments.

I am a former public school teacher who started teaching at age 21. I hate to admit it, but for 8 years or so, I was so clueless. I was the kind of teacher that, as a mom, I would now hate!

What did I do that was so bad? Upon reflecting, it was assigning STUPID “projects”. Most of the time, the ridiculous projects ended up being homework. Why did I assign them? Did I ever think about whether they provided any real educational benefit? I don’t know and no. What I DO remember thinking about was how great a particular project was going to make my room look! I actually thought that having all these projects made ME look like a great teacher! Ugh!

Fast forward to my having kids and subsequently making me THINK about what was important-my husband and I decided we would homeschool our children. (He’s a gifted, insightful, award winning and well-loved educator who HATES homework, as well.) I am not writing to persuade you on homeschooling, but to merely affirm that 1. extra time does NOT equal more understanding and 2. kids absolutely need to play and have down time. My 4th grade son spends about 5-51/2 hours on school each day – and this includes 2 hours of reading (which he LOVES). The rest of the time, it’s play. His scores on standardized tests are exceptional, and he is 2-3 “grade” levels ahead in all subjects.

Now, I don’t think that his (as well as his sibling’s) academic success is due is to his being exceptionally smart. I truly believe his success is due to our “less is more” philosophy, and his being given time to simply be a hard-playing, inquisitive child. I know without a doubt that his love for reading and learning would be squashed if he were to have the work load of his friends that are in the schools around us.

I am not sure where I am going with all this, or why I even took time out to comment, but I wanted to let you know that I applaud you in your efforts to curb homework and worthless, silly, time-consuming assignments (which, as you saw from my own experience, is what most homework turns out to be.). Unfortunately, there are more out of touch educators than you would care to believe. And I can say that because I used to be one.

7 thoughts on “From a Former Teacher

  1. I was one of those teachers too. I didn’t even question it until I had a child in my class whose mom was against homework. She really planted some seeds that made me reconsider my approach. Now as I a mom I feel the same way you do.

    The principal at our school doesn’t have any children and I think that affects the policies we have. Luckily he’s got an open door and is willing to talk about things but I think a lot of things wouldn’t even have to be addressed if he’d had experience with children of his own.

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  2. I received a notice from my daughter’s teacher at the beginning of January that the principal now requires students in Grade 3 (my daughter’s grade) to complete 40 minutes of mulitiplication exercises on a math website each week. Every Monday I am required to send in a signed log to verify that my daughter actually did the work. This is in addition to all of the other projects and homework assignments that must be completed. I’m curious as to how much homework assigned, including projects, is based on school policy as opposed to classroom policy i.e. the teachers have no choice.

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  3. Thankyou!

    I have noticed how ‘pretty’ all the identical assignments look on the wall – aargh!

    I am one of those mothers opposed to homework – I just haven’t got up the courage to mention it yet.

    Alice

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  4. I cringe at some of the stuff I did as a teacher. I hated homework then and now, but felt trapped by assignments and policies that I *had* to use because of my school. I would fight that so much harder now that I am a mother. But, really, I don’t think I can go back to public school, and certainly not in the same capacity, because seeing those kids loaded down with useless assignments–and so very stressed about it all–just killed me. I knew that the parents didn’t want that homework either, but both teachers and parents are in a tight spot when it comes to speaking out. I wish that parents fought the homework policy at my school–I think most teachers and parents were on the same side; it wasn’t (necessarily) about individual teachers, it was a systemic problem. Organization seems to be the key rather than individually outspoken people, maybe….

    I am thrilled to come across this web site and to learn about this book. This is a key revolution we should all be fighting in the public schools.

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  5. Wow, I’m shocked and scared to think about how teachers could have had that mindset: “A project like this will make my room look so pretty!”

    I am utterly appalled. Not that the educators are entirely to blame. I assume the need to keep up appearances comes from parents needing to see that they’re kid’s classrooms “look” educational and stimulating.

    I’m not so sure my parents would have agreed to an assignment of symbols made up by myself replacing numbers in a multiplication table the size of a posterboard, when I couldn’t draw the 200 symbols filling a posterboard, so my parents had to stay up all night with me just to get it done…. in time to display on the wall for Parent’s Night.

    What a joke.

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  6. I am a middle school student, and have had to dozens of those useless projects! The stress that these posters, diaramas, and models caused in my home was immense. I’ve had some of the most ridiculous assignments, that children at my grade level could never complete. In second grade, I was asked to write a five page report and create a diaramma! It is evident that things like this don’t help kids…seven year olds can’t do that! Has it ever occured to teachers that the parents are the ones doing all the work? I’d like to thank the creators of this website, and the one of this article for putting their experiences out there….there have been times in my life where I have sobbed, overwhelmed with the pressure of homework. I’ve had to quit tons of activities. And I only get about 6 hours of sleep each night. NONE of this is helping my education! So thanks again for sharing your story!

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