My Topics for Back to School

Yes, until some other schools get going, you are stuck with my versions of the Back to School topics.

So, you know that means I have to visit the subject of homework.  With that in mind, if you are my son’s teacher and you manage to find this site (since one of the other first grade teachers knows where it is, I am sure you will), please do not take what I say personally.

This is not an attack on you as I know all of the teachers basically work the same schedule, the same work, the same homework, the same assignments.

I was even told that during administrative walk-thru’s that sometimes you guys will be on the exact same reading page if they move quickly enough from one of your rooms to the next.  So please understand that what I have to say is in general and not aimed at you individually.

That said, holy freakin’ cow at the homework it appears we may have.

Now, take note I said may and I am going to leave that to be determined in a month or two.  In the meantime, I was on Facebook (have I mentioned, I hate Facebook) where I encounter a message from a “friend” and the conversation just took off from there.  I am changing the names of folks to protect their identity.  Not everyone is as brave stupid as I am and speaks out about homework.  So, here goes….what do you folks think…..

Friend 1:  If school doesn’t start back so I can get some peace and quiet, I might run away!!!

Me:  yes ye indeed, sweet school

Friend 1:  (I’m not sure what the original message was here but….here was the reply) Just don’t check the backpacks..and you won’t know it’s there.

Me:  I am part of an anti-homework advocacy group and will be continuing my fight against it again this year as my first born enters first grade (as if a first grader needs homework, or a kindergarten child).

If the speaker of the book, The Case Against Homework who is also the author of the website could  make a trip to Alabama, I would be stepping up my efforts and would love to have a full tribe going with me.
I won’t preach to you all the negative effects but you can read that on her blog and you probably already know most of it anyways.

I know most everything has a time and a place but most everything also has a place of moderation and common sense….

Stepping off my soap box but feel free to keep up with this on-going project, hopefully by the time my kids graduate we will make some headway (they are 4 and 6 so I’m not dreaming terribly big)

Friend 1:  at first I thought you were kidding.. But you’re serious.

Friend 2:  well speaking for myself as a kindergarten teacher – the homework i send home is reading…which is really to encourage the PARENT to actually SIT DOWN with their child (you know, the one GOD BLESSED THEM WITH) and turn off all TV’s, DVD’s, DS players, IPODS…and for the child to “hear” words read from a human (not recording)…they need that time taken with them…and by sending home a book that must be read nightly…NOT FOR AR POINTS either…it helps the child learn responsibility

Oh I’m not near finished…the child will know how important the reading is…but some of the parents are too #*@#!busy for a 3 minute book…
HOMEWORK isn’t the problem Jerri Ann…its parents who want to be “best friends” or “buddies” instead of parents…you know…us, the ones who sometimes have to be the “bad guy”…and make them stick to … something, even if they don’t “feel like it”…the ones who teach them about chores and other real world/real life situations…
homework…a problem.
what a rip…

Me:  I am serious and I don’t mean to be argumentative in any way, I did my dues in the public school systems and the thing that bothers me about my child having homework is it is so that the parents have to interact with them  & that seems odd. It isn’t the school’s responsibility to see that parents do what they should.
That said, last year the only homework we did…  was the reading, we didn’t do all that sight word stuff. If I am going to spend time with him, I prefer it to be on my terms, playing in the floor, in the yard, playing Go Fish and not more of what he just did all day at school.
I know it isn’t a popular opinion to voice on this matter and it is a very tough subject to speak to teachers about. I have more research, as does Stophomework.com than you could imagine. I had homework growing up and I did it. And, I did it alone.

And by doing it alone, I learned to take responsibility for myself. Homework isn’t for the parents and that is one of my primary issues with it. I get knots in my stomach every time I hear an adult say, “well we have to go, we have a science project due tomorrow” well, you see, “we” shouldn’t be doing the assignment but when the children are … given homework at an age that they require parental assistance to do it, then they expect that mom or dad will always be there to assist them. And, the fact of the matter is, why would they think any differently. If that’s the only way they have ever known as far as homework goes then they expect the parent to keep right on sitting at the table with them, begging and coaxing them until they are grown.
That is my biggest problem. I didn’t have homework until I was older but not once did either of my parents ever touch a project or help with homework. Homework was for the student not the parent.

So, since I started homework at a later age, then I never had a parent babysitting me while I did it and I knew it was my responsibility to do. I had a foster child about 14 years ago and she had someone babysitting her through her homework until she moved in with me. I didn’t do that. It isn’t my place.
I’m ok with “hey can you look at this and see if I did this one right” or ” can you do a quick spelling quiz with me” but I am not into these 2 and 2.5 hour homework sessions and to be frankly honest, we won’t do a majority of what is sent home.
Because I have made my opinion so forcefully known, teachers know how I feel. So, I hope I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings because that wasn’t my intent. But, the research shows that children who consistently sit and do homework fair less on major testing (standardized and common weekly teacher given) than those who do none at all  and it’s different of course when disabilities are factored in.

Obviously there are always exceptions but as a general rule, we won’t be doing any homework that is busy work. He goes to school to learn, that’s where I went to learn and I am not holding school for 3 hours every night when he gets home.
Again, I know it isn’t the popular opinion (actually, I think it is the popular opinion but most people won’t speak out for fear of the repercussions that their child might face because of it) but I have tons of data to back it all up and that’s the reason for the website Again, I didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings or step on anyone’s toes, but I bet if an anonymous poll was done (I”ll do that on my own facebook page tomorrow) and people could reply anonymously, more than 90% of parents would agree with me that their child is not learning what they need to when at home and they do not like the homework issue at all. … I proofed none of this, sorry for the typos

Student 1:  Holy moly, I don’t like homework but the teacher has a BIG point, even though I’m in the 9th grade LOL not K or 1st

Friend 2: ….maybe if you had studied your spelling words more….

Me:  I knew that was coming, lol, my spelling is fine, it’s my typing that reaches a level of not so good by this time of the night. I usually work til around 2 in the morning and I proof the next day before hitting that “send” button…You know what I wish I had studied more? I wish I had studied more about how to have balls and stand up when I’m being run over…  (not here, just life in general) and some creative writing skills and most importantly those doggone grammar rules. I teach online and normally my written presentations go over pretty well, it’s the live ones that get messy. For one thing, I speak true redneck-speak and sometimes people in various parts of the country think I am a lunatic because they don’t get the slang…and as I’ve mentioned several times (and again, probably not here) my ebook has already come from the editor 4 times and part of her job is to correct spelling but I have to correct thoughts and ….grammar, that dreaded grammar stuff…ugh

Friend 2:  hey, i can’t spell…thank the lord for spell check…Jerri i think its cool how you believe in a cause and really put your heart into your “causes”….

Friend 3 (or is he really a friend at all):  Jerri Ann. its good to see that some things never change..You are still f…king crazy.

Friend 2:  I have enjoyed the debate…think you have a future in politics woman.

Me:  Yes and I still talk too much

Me:  hahaha politics hahaha not a chance, I want to reform the world of education without having to form a union, lol, I mean, really, if you want to read where I get really down right nasty about it, I have places online I do paid writing gigs to complain about things like homework, lunch prices, never ending supply lists, items on never ending supply …  etc. Just check out my media site and you can see everything online publishing I’ve done up through the middle of July of this year, I have some Blog Talk Radio shows that haven’t made it up yet and about 10 other published works that I just haven’t had time to get on the site…but you will see….I routinely debate something…..my husband went to bed with these final words “have you started another cat fight?” I don’t mean too, I just ask a lot of questions and I give a lot of unsolicited answers…like tonight….

I won’t tell you all of the ways I plan to combat the whole homework issue but…I will tell you that the XXXX County School System does NOT have a homework policy that is active, in place, enforced or even remotely thought of. So, with that, if you see me on the news and I am chained to a tree in front of the school all hippie like, just nod your head and say, “I knew she should have shut up while she had the chance.”

Not so Friend 3:  IDIOT!!

Me:  well gee that was pleasant

Friend 4:  Actually popular opinion doesn’t matter. Research does, and research shows that homework does not increase achievement until possibly the high school years. research also shows that anything more than ten minutes per grade level of homework each night (that would be 90-120 minutes in high school) significantly lowers test scores. you are exactly right! I teach middle school and assign little to no homework. I actually have parents complain that I don’t give enough homework. Go figure!

Me:  Thank you Friend #4, that’s what I was trying to say all along. Research is a big deal to me. It matters and until people understand and want to know more, we are stuck with the unknowing. I taught junior high science and I rarely gave anything for the students to do outside the classroom.
A majority of the time, homework is completed by a disgruntled and discouraged parent instead of the child anyway. So, yea, what Friend #4 said

Friend #5:  I used to teach and am a parent of a child with Asperger’s and I agree with Jerri Ann. Not going to get into it here, but the research does show this. A good parent is going to read with their child regardless. A bad parent isn’t going to even if assigned.

Friend #6:  We also have a son with Asperger’s who just turned 18!! so there are challenges!! We homeschhol now and it works great!

Friend 1: Friend #5…you are right! So eloquently said. Parents make the choice to read with them. A teacher won’t make them do it with a required assignment. Jerri Ann…you are my kind of woman! I fight for things all the time. Namely,the fight against our leaders. Bless you dear for being so strong and confident in this cause. Started to say, “your” cause. ..But in reality, it belongs to us all. I hate doing school projects. I even hate spending the money on the materials required to make them. Once, I spent twenty bucks. From that moment on, I was pissed. For less fortunate parents, the money just isn’t there. Which in turn, makes their child return to school feeling bad that their project is less attractive. Another issue, indeed. It snowballs. to Friend #2…thank you for speaking your side. I enjoyed the debate. I giggled. to Friend #3…you’re just funny.
I didn’t mean to start anything, but if it helps all of us, and I am now informed much more than before, that it was a good thing.

Friend #6:  Hello all! I am a 2nd grade teacher. On this subject, I have mixed views. I went to AMSTI this summer. I am finally impressed with something the state has to offer in our math curriculum. The higher ups said to timed test in math and keep for our records or as a grade that counts as a small % if at all.Also, it is an assessment to show teachers what they know. It seems they were advising us to go slowly and teach hands on in groups while everyone is doing the SAMETHING. Centers but overseen by the teacher at all times. I am saying all this to say—-We were told less homework and more hands on math will help the student to understand and learn more easily. Hence there is less stressful work for all! I do agree reading should be enjoyed and practiced at home as much as possible! Reading for enjoyment will keep your child always reading. AR is good for that but don’t make it stressful for all either!!! That WILL turn a kid against reading in a hurry.

“Gotta have so many points in a hurry” (bad AR) may turn a child against reading. I have been there and done that.

Here is the SISTA in me. Take God out of school and we have the Tower of Babel. I love teaching. LOVE IT! LOVE IT! LOVE IT! However, classwork should be left to the teacher and she/he should be accountable for herself during the class time.

She/he is to lay it out there to the best of her/his ability. Homework should be only if the teacher deems it necessary because she/he has presented the best she/he is able.

It really is up to the parents if it is done or not. Also, if a student is able to do one problem lessen the assignment! Now, don’t get me started on DIBELS!

Friend #7:  While we’re in the crazy subject of homework – why don’t we mention all the computer tests. It is fine if you child tests well – but if they don’t – it is a whole other story.

As parents- we know the final test score, usually weeks after the test – but don’t know what they were tested on to even have a clue as to what they were expected to know

And by the way – DIBELS will get most children hating to read.(This includes strong readers & weak readers will LOATHE reading.) DIBELS is one of the most HORRIBLE programs our brilliant state school boards have ever created.

I wish our state dept. was barred from creating any new learning style.

Stick with the old style (especially when concerning the basics).

Then parents who care – will have a good idea how to help. Then the children who do not do well with this style, there are many strong, proven systems on the market. Use these programs with the other kids.

Friend #4:  Even though I know very few of you I have enjoyed this conversation. I teach Science and use AMSTI. It is amazing.

The kids learn they retain what they learn. There is no homework. It integrates reading (and it is higher level reading) and Math skills daily! I know what the research says about homework and have shared that.

Research also shows that readers are created or destroyed before they enter school. parents either model reading and speak and read to their child in ways that build vocabulary or not.

Vocabulary is the key to reading. Let’s face it can you really make somebody read? You can make them look at a book for a certain amount of time, but you cannot make them read it. We have lost the love for reading by making them read.

Friend #2:  To Friend 7~”Also, if a student is able to do one problem lessen the assignment!” You are a brilliant teacher!

Me:  Wow, it’s great to see that the trend is turning (and I knew AMSTI was going to help lead the way) and as someone said, if a parent is going to read with their child, they are going to do it and if not, an assignment from school is only going to stress the parent and the kid.

I figure since we are discussing this, I should also say that the WCBE policy on homework is that they will follow the WCBE policy which does not exist.

And that my friends is where the problem exists. We have adults, educated adults telling us we must follow the policy and that’s all well and good, just show me the policy. The conversation goes like this:
“show me the policy”
“that is the policy”
“what is the policy”
“that we follow board policy”… Read More
“so what is the board’s policy”
“to follow the policy”
“which is?”
“to follow board policy”
And you wonder why many a kid comes home confused and many adult goes to the school for clarification.

Friend 2:  XCBE…policies??? LMAO!!!

The best thing to infer from this little debate last night is…I am not alone in this fight in my school system….

I have friends…and they have friends…and many of them agree with me..Sara Bennett the author of The Case Against Homework and Stop Homework are you out there and reading this…this could get better sooner than later.