The Great Slump
The teacher greets them at the classroom door, “Put your homework on the left side of your desk, and get started on your “Do Now.”
Fourteen-year- old Johnny comes in and sits down. He has no homework to put on the left side of his desk, so he plays with the strap on his bookbag while his teacher walks up and down the rows.
She stands above him, and even though he pretends not to know, he can hear the scratch of her damn pen on her damn clipboard. So much for fresh starts, positive climate, and “I believe in you.”
It’s only 8:03, first period, first failure. Only six to go before he gets the hell out of here, unless he leaves after lunch.
The teacher begins the lesson with a powerful question designed to get them all talking and arguing. Johnny has much to say, but why bother? He drops his head and shoulders, leans back in his chair, and thrusts his legs in front of him. His teacher notes his body language. It’s the familiar slump and sprawl of defeat— with its jagged edge of defiance.
She asks another question of the class, waits a while like good teachers do, and then calls on people– some of them with hands raised, some not. Clearly her question has stoked their brain fires. Then she says, “Johnny, what do you think?
She tries it again. “Johnny?”
“Hate this school!” He pushes himself out of his chair, grabs his backpack, and slams out the classroom door. He knows he will get in trouble, a phone call, a detention, or an in-house suspension — but he doesn’t care.
Johnny knows in two years he will be sixteen, and then he will walk out the school door, and he will never have to come back.
Johnny is one of many kids who don’t do homework. Many of these kids, if they could start class positively, could thrive instead of fail. In this blog, in future posts, I will describe some of these kids, both high school kids like Johnny and elementary kids who may grow up to be Johnnies.
On Facebook I came upon a viral post by a Mom, Bunmi Laditan. She writes a letter to her ten-year-old-daughter’s school declaring her home to be a “Homework- Free- Zone.” I shared the post on Facebook and wrote a quick comment. I’m sure that Bunmi Laditan and I are part of a growing movement to change the way homework is being done. Here’s the link to her post. http://twentytwowords.com/moms-viral-post-declares-her-house-a-homework-free-zone/
6 thoughts on “Johnny and His Homework”
When Marc was in second grade his teacher wisely suggested a ‘no homework’ policy for him. She was wise enough to know he couldn’t handle it, and we were at the end of our homework tether. Really enjoyed your blog today – it really resonated!
I believe in home work to enforce what they learn during the day, but… a minimal amount. These children have been in school for 6 hours then come home, and some only have time to do their homework, eat dinner and go to bed. Where is the fun time, the play time, they are children and we tend to forget. Also some parents work all day and after helping with homework don’t have much time to interact socially with the kids. I see my grandchildren with homework in pre-k and kindergarden. It is not a lot but is getting them ready for the upper grades. I think a little consideration into what these kids have to do after school after being in school all day, should be addressed. Structure is important, but so is taking the time to be a child and enjoying that time.
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Well said. As to “homework as reinforcement”, I agree, but for those kids who got it in school. I worry about those kids who didn’t get it in school. And of course, then there’s the definition of the words “getting it.” I sometimes wonder what stuff is really necessary for them to get.
I taught for over 35 years. Homework should not be onerous. It should not be meaningless. But, there should be time provided for children to practice what they have “learned” in class. This can be done before or after class in the school setting. I was required to give homework. I used to tell parents of my students to stop homework after 30 minutes and let me know if their child needed help in a subject. At some point in the education process work at home will need to be done. Some training for this is useful.
I agree that the “practice” part of HW is important, and if we couple that with your statement “before or after class in the school setting,” more kids will be able to succeed with the practice. Thanks as always for your wise comments.