Saturday, October 29, 2016

No Homework

Last night (Friday), I spent just under two hours updating my agendas for next week's classes.  I added links, converted online articles into Google Docs, transferred projects from class to class.  Two hours doesn't seem like much, but it's far less than most teachers will spend on school work on a typical weekend.

You have probably seen this floating around during various "teacher appreciation" parts of the year:

I call shenanigans.

I don't know what exactly the quote (or the countless other ones just like it) is supposed to inspire, other than, "Wow, teachers do a lot for their students," right before we proceed to talk about how low test scores are the burden of the teachers. 

At first, I thought about titling this post, "Why I Won't Answer Your Kid's Email," but I realized that I believe in something beyond my time.

I don't believe in homework.

At the start of each school year, to both student and parents, I announce that I won't answer emails after 3 p.m.  When I walk off school grounds, some days later than others due to some leadership roles I willingly hold, my name becomes, "Mommy," end of story. I live a full life outside of my job, and I prefer to work to live than to live to work.  And I wish the same balance for all of my colleagues, whether they have children or not.

I believe the same for my students. Go play basketball, piano, soccer. Go dance, sing, swim, run. Go read a book. Go help your parents with housework, with a business, with caring for siblings or a grandparent or a parent.  Let school stay at school.

It's ironic.

I teach advanced students, and I know that they can't leave their work at school and only at school, but I won't require them to do anything at home. Have a video project? Yes, you can use my class time to film.  Have an essay? Here's forty minutes a day over several days.  Need to talk to me about your grade? I'm right here. A meaningless homework assignment just for the sake of it? Not from me.

It changes the game, for all of us.  

It means that I have to plan and teach differently - some of my big plans get modified to fit the time I actually have to put them into action. It means that students need to take responsibility in the classroom, or they will need to take work home and finish it. It means that these teenagers need to remember to ask me questions during the day and not expect an answer to a panicked email at 8:30 Sunday night, but it also means that, eventually, they shouldn't be panicking at 8:30 Sunday night.

I still do some work at home. I can't possibly grade 109 essays in a reasonable amount of time when only fitting them into a prep period every other day.  So, I take them home and spend 8-10 hours grading them - but I don't want you to feel sorry for me or to praise me or honor my profession.

What do I want?

For teachers to be respected enough to have the time in their day to prepare for their jobs - time to prepare to teach these future world leaders (and every other job that leads up to that).

While most of my friends bring work home with them emotionally, few bring work home to complete uncompensated.

I plan and teach in the hours my employer provides me to plan and teach (at least...that's my goal).

Some of my colleagues will go above and beyond and plan incredible, awe-inspiring projects that truly mean a lot to their students but that rip them away from their families and friends most evenings and nearly every weekend.

I'm going to travel a different path - I'm going to model balance. I will teach, and I will teach extremely well (because I'm me, and I strive for excellence), but I refuse to sacrifice my personal life, my mental, emotional, and physical health to meet impossible expectations. I refuse to guilt trip everyone around me because I sacrifice so much for my students. I will use the tools I have been given.

And I will seek balance.

Balance means no homework, for teachers or students.

I won't answer those emails after 3 p.m., and my students shouldn't feel the need to send them.

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