Thursday, March 26, 2015

No One Did Their Homework

Ever have one of those days where no one does their homework?  I did last week.  Actually, I'm exaggerating:  three kids did their homework out of 28 (my smallest class).

Three kids.

My whole two hour lesson plan hinged on the teetering precipice of homework being done...and it wasn't.  My feelings were hurt.  I even had a couple of kids apologize sheepishly, eyes dragged down to the dirty tiles of my classroom floor.  They couldn't look at me and say it.  

What could possibly be more important than MY homework...oops, did I use the wrong pronoun?  I meant their homework...whose homework is it actually?

This seemed to be the perfect storm, my college bound had more pressing university applications due, my student athletes had traveled three hours away to represent our school in state basketball games, and my fringe kids had myriad issues:  one moved out of his abusive household and into an Aunt's house that is now one hour away from campus...a transportation nightmare not to mention all of his "stuff" is still at his mother's home.  Another moved into a cousin's house because her "sober" father is dabbling with weed again because it "mellows him out since he can't drink."  Another, had an uncle die in his sleep at the age of age.

What is a teacher to do?  Do I place the smack-down on all of them because that is what the "real world" would do?  Is this the only way responsibility is taught?  Do all receive an "F" because allowing late work should show weakness in me as a leader?  Do I play hard ball or get soft?

I started with rewarding my three who did do their work a bonus 10 points on top of the A+ they were about to receive.  I also invited them to put their ear buds in and get a jump start on the work for today.

For the "naughty ones," I had them all take out pen and paper.   I powered up my old school boombox and pushed play on my Coldplay CD for some mellow background music.  I then projected my Ipad timer for a 20 minute countdown.  "This is your get out of jail free card," I stated.  "Write.  I don't care if you think you have nothing to say...write for 20 minutes and don't stop."

Some did stop.  Some wanted to write for more than 20, but they all stay engaged with the the process.  Did I give them full credit?  Yes.  Did I tell them how disappointed I was in them?  Yes. 
But, in this moment in time it was far more important that they produced something more than an "F."

I know homework is a controversial topic (future blog!) and how we handle it varies greatly.  Ben Johnson's article for Edutopia does a beautiful job Debunking Homework Myths, but the bottom line is although some are very, very good at it, I would like to make it as difficult as possible to fail my class.

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