We all have done it. We all have complained about homework.

Too much, too hard, too often, too confusing, too boring, too dry, too unrelated, too specific, too stinky: take your pick.

For teachers, this presents an interesting predicament; as students, we complained, now we have the chance to do something about it.

My first year teaching, I took over for another teacher after two weeks. I continued what she did. Would any of us do different?

It’s like parenting. We pass on what we received because we know it. Not because it worked well, not because it’s easy, but because it’s familiar.

Over the last 6 years, I have struggled to find a fair way to do homework. (Feel free to skip reading this portion unless you’re a teacher.)

  • Year 1: Assigned 20-30 problems every day from the book. It was too much, students hated it.
    • Completion: about 15% of students on a given day.
  • Year 2: Assigned less than 10 problems per day, and I started naming each book assignment (alphabetically) to keep them straight. Students were more likely to complete them AND they didn’t pile up. It’s much easier to say “Take out HENRY” than it is to say “Take out page 137, numbers 6-16 even and 23-37 odd”.
    • Completion: 35% per day
  • Year 3: Began adding projects, worksheets, and other less conventional homeworks to mix it up.
    • Completion: 40-50%
  • Year 4: Drowning under the weight of 8 preps (12 different grading rosters) I revert back to what’s easy: problems from the book.
    • Completion: 30-60% depending on the class.
  • Year 5: New School! A combination of named assignments from the book, worksheets, workbooks, and projects.
    • Completion: 70-80%

All of that was missing the point, the driving force, the reason:

Why do we give homework?

All of the “flipped classes” and “mastery learning”  and “common assessments” and “independent practice” all center around one thing: Learning stuff.

The whole point of sending students home with bulging backpacks is that the material that we discussed in class will stick to their Teflon brains.

(Get it? Teflon. Nothing sticks to…. never mind. It was a stretch.)

Also, click here to see the teacherly emails between me and Fawn Nguyen regarding the best way to make Homework (and Teaching) effective.

So, non-teachers, now you know why [good] teachers spend so much time thinking about this stuff. If you were a teacher, how would you do homework?