For many of us, this is our last week before the holiday break. Congratulations! You've made it through the first semester! What are your plans for the break? What are your plans for your students over break?? I recall being assigned homework by my teachers every single break. That's ironic right there. Being assigned "work" during "break." I had no break.
Perhaps we should reconsider assigning homework over breaks for students? After all, don't we need a break? Shouldn't they also get a break?
There's definitely a growing movement among educators who stop assigning homework. I am part of the movement, which I'll share later why I became part of that movement. I came across this article on WeAreTeachers. I agree with many points brought up.
Simply put. If I want a break myself, it's fair to also give students a break. Do I want to be spending my break grading papers? I did that during my first year of teaching. I spent 3-4 days sitting at a Starbucks all day long, just reading essays. I recall one particular essay that made absolutely no sense. It's like the student typed the essay on their phone and decided to use word prediction to type the whole essay out. It was a waste of their time and a waste of my time. That was not fun at all. That was the first and last time I assigned an essay as a final.
Our students need a break just as much as we do. We care about work-life balance and we remind our family, friends, and colleagues that. Shouldn't we consider our students' balance too? I teach high school and I think it's quick to forget that students take at least 4-5 other classes. I have colleagues who assign 1-2+ hours of homework each day. And that's just their class alone! Imagine everyone of us assigning just as much homework every day. This doesn't even include extracurriculars like clubs and sports. Some students have jobs because they need to support their families or themselves. Where do students have time to be kids? I have a student who works on his pre-calculus homework in my class every now and then because he didn't have enough time to finish the night before.
Don't Confuse Education With Schooling.
I have to remind my students that every so often. What is the focus? If students' first questions are "How much is this worth?" or "Is this going into the grade book?" then I'd argue students are not doing it for learning. They're doing it for the points and grade. They're "completing" the assignment and not "learning" from the assignment. The question they should be asking is "What am I going to learn or get out of this assignment?" That should be the first question students should be asking. I've been telling my students that since the beginning of the year that and rarely do I get asked those first two questions. If I'm assigning work, I make sure there's some educational value to it rather than just giving work for the sake of it.
For the break, I would assign optional enrichment work but it's not mandatory. There are plenty of ways to learn without assigning homework. Consider giving them a break. They'll come back refreshed and ready to learn.
What do you think? Do you assign homework over the break?
I'm Jayson, a high school social science teacher with a strong passion for social justice and public education issues.