One big hurdle for me has always been the homework completion rate. Why aren't kids doing their homework when it is assigned? Well, it's just kids these days. They don't have the work ethic, they're too hooked on their devices, their parents enable them, they expect things to be given to them, and sooooooo onnnnnnnn...
During a discussion with one of my colleagues, I asked her if she had ever asked her students about why they weren't doing their homework. Y'know, going straight to the source. In a fit of frustration, that's exactly what I did, and the results were--to say the least--enlightening.
"I didn't feel like it."
"I get home at 4:30 and have to take care of my brother until my mom gets home (late at night). To be honest, I just don't have time by the time she gets there."
"My brother got admitted to the hospital after getting beat up at a party, so I've been at the hospital with him. I'll turn it in tomorrow."
"I have 5 classes and all of them give me homework, so I pick a couple and rotate so I don't go crazy."
"It was too hard in class, so I didn't even try."
"Well, to be honest, I'm failing Chemistry right now, so I needed to focus on that work. It's not like I didn't want to do it."
"Why do you care?"
To help, I'll walk you through what I did:
- I sat down at the front of the room
- I told them that I was in need of some help
- I asked them to be honest
- I asked them why they weren't doing their homework
Yep, that's it. And, believe it or not, a group of teens who felt like nobody ever listens to them opened up and shared the brutal honesty. There were other responses throughout the day, but the ones above are the ones that stuck out the most to me. In fact, they resonated so much that it was one of the deciding factors in me eliminating a homework requirement completely.
So what's next?
Rather than assigning homework that would be collected and graded, I offered voluntary practice sets. Much like a homework assignment, I would put the handout at the back of the room, the page number on the board, or post it to my online resource page. Much like a homework assignment, I told the students that I would give feedback on what was turned in. What is different, though, is that I didn't make it mandatory. It was recommended that students would try a few problems throughout the week, but I figured that those who could do the practice, would. Those who couldn't, for whatever reason, wouldn't.
I must say that it was much less stressful than trying to collect, grade, and enter 178 student papers every time I gave homework. So, selfishly, it was pretty awesome.
Was it perfect?
No. Of course not.
Was it better than what I was doing before?
I believe so.
If nothing more, it showed that I cared about their responses, and hopefully it showed that I cared about them.
Now, my questions to you: After asking your students why they don't do their homework, what did they say? More importantly, what are you going to do with their responses? How are you going to show your students that you care about the feedback they provide?
Happy "Honest Feedback" Fishing
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