Teach & Serve III, No. 6 – Which Hours Are Yours?

Teach & Serve III, No. 6

Which Hours Are Yours?

September 13, 2017

My wife, who is a talented, veteran teacher, posed a few weeks back. We were discussing homework and its efficacy and she said: “Which hours do we think are ours?”

If you are a teacher or administrator at any school level and you are aware of current conversations and research around homework, you are simply not paying attention. There is mounting evidence that homework needs to be rethought, now. Like immediately. Like before you do anything else.

However, we do not always have the time we would like to read and research ourselves so, rather than direct you to articles and data (though it IS out there), I will break this down for you very simply.

My wife, who is a talented, veteran teacher, posed a few weeks back. We were discussing homework and its efficacy and she said:

“Which hours do we think are ours?”

“What?” I asked.

“Which of the kids’ hours do teachers think are ours?”

What followed was a pretty damned enlightening conversation about the demands placed upon students by their schools, their extra curriculars, their jobs, their families and their lives overall. For our data set, we employed our three college-aged kids who were three very different kinds of students when they were in high school.

The questions and timelines we generated were noteworthy.

“If we say classes have a half hour of homework a night (a pretty standard but totally arbitrary measure), and the kid has 4 classes (again, arbitrary), we are talking about two hours a night.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Two hours. On a typical night. No major assignments, no long-term projects. Typical night.”

“Sure.”

“So, school gets out at let’s say, 3:00. We want the kid in bed by, what, 11:00? That’s eight hours.”

And this is where it got interesting. How would those eight hours be carved up? How would they be used?

Because, many kids have two to three-hour sports and/or extracurricular commitments. Now we are down to five or four hours. They ought to have an hour for dinner, too, yes? Four or three hours. Many students work. Many take care of family members at home. The social lives of kids connecting with each other is critically important. How much time for these things? An hour? Two? Do they get to take in any news? Do they get to relax? Do they get to spend time in reflection?

Do they get to breathe?

Our kids did their homework to varying degrees of completion and, as teachers, we assume that is the case, right? Some kids pick and choose what we assign. Some kids “never” do their homework. Some kids, however, do everything they are asked.

And they have limited time to complete their work no matter which approach they take.

Those eight after school hours (which, again, is an arbitrary number and, likely, is too high) disappear most quickly.

So, as you contemplate what is important for your students to do outside of school and what is not, as you develop your plans for homework, please ask the following question:

Which hours are yours?