This coming Monday, November 2, is the first Monday of the month. As I suggest every month in this blog, I hope you’ll send a note expressing your thoughts about homework to your children’s teachers or, perhaps, to a school administrator or School Board member. Even better, join with a few friends and send a collective note. Ask for a public discussion of the problem. Ask the school to be responsive. If you need help in formulating a note, look in The Case Against Homework for some examples, or see the kinds of notes parents have been writing by browsing Moms (and Dads) on a Mission on this blog. If you do send a note, please post a comment and send me a copy of your letter. And if you get a response from the teacher or school, please let us know that as well.
Or, take inspiration from Kerry Dickinson, a parent from Danville, California, who successfully changed homework policy in her community and is still advocating on her children’s behalf. Here’s what she did recently:
Advocacy is an Ongoing Process
by Kerry Dickinson
This year after Back to School night at both the middle and high schools my boys attend, I sent each of their teachers an email. In the email I said I had just read a really interesting book called “Rethinking Homework” by Cathy Vatterott and I had some extra copies I’d like to share with anyone interested.
To my surprise I got a few emails back right away from teachers at both schools saying “sure, I’d like to borrow the book.” Well, just last week I got a nice letter back from my 10th grader’s geometry teacher. I received permission from him to reprint it:
Thanks for the loan of the book. It generated much “rethinking” at lunch in the math dept. While many of us were initially skeptical about a new homework paradigm, we found ourselves agreeing with much of the book. We are opposed to “busy work” and grading homework for accuracy. I hope that my assignments are appropriate, both as regards length of time and amount of practice. In Calculus, I think it appropriate to give homework no weight, but in my classes, I need to reward the effort – about 10-15% seems right.
I feel bad when I see my students losing sleep to do projects of questionable value, and pledge that I will never do this. Sometimes, if I must spend more time on questions than I planned, or there is a short period for some forgotten reason, I may give more homework than you feel appropriate. If so, I apologize.
This particular teacher has been teaching at the high school for over 20 years. I was pleasantly surprised (and told my son so) that he was open to reading a book on homework and took the next step by sharing and discussing it with his colleagues.
My son hasn’t complained about his math homework this year, he just accepts it as a fact of life, but there have been years that math has been a real struggle for him. Even so, I think it always encouraging when a teacher (especially one who has been teaching for so long) is willing to re-think the homework he/she is assigning.
So what did I do after I received his letter? I emailed the principal letting him know how pleased I was that this teacher took the time to read and think about this book. I also sent another book to school with my son for the same teacher. This one is called “The Mathematician’s Lament.” It discusses how we kill the love of math by teaching it the way we do. It also gives suggestions for ways to teach it better.
(You can read more about what Kerry does and thinks on her excellent blog, eastbayhomework.blogspot).