Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's all just talk until you DO It

Theory. Or practice?
It is one of those sticking points I bump up against over and over again in education circles. The talkers are often not the teachers; the teachers who are working hard every day in classrooms with students often don't have time to theorize, write, tweet all night, present at or even attend many conferences.
I am personally aware of many exceptions to this, and, frankly, I have no idea how they do it.
But I don't want to argue, blame or criticize nor do I want to praise or name names. Everyone has a role to play, and anyone who cares enough about education to devote themselves to it at any level, in any way, has my appreciation and respect.

Something really stood out, though, to me tonight during the weekly edchat on twitter. The topic for discussion was about assessment, and many tweeters were glorifying eportfolios as a form of assessment. I jumped into the chat, as I am working this year on piloting eportfolios with students. Yes, I said working and with students. I tweeted-

(and then re-tweeted it again since no one responded).
I did get a few "try so and so, I think they are doing portfolios..." and one tweeter who responded that he is planning to try them next year. And I did get one person to join the new digital portfolios group I created at the Curriculum 21 ning.

This eportfolios experiment is proving to be one of the most challenging things I have undertaken with K-8 students. Most of the high-quality samples I have found are from adults and college/grad school students (education and graphic design).
I'm certainly not advocating that we don't talk about anything unless we've tried it. Everything has to begin in the ideas-talking-thinking stage...
It is just making me wonder how much of the "teachers should be doing this" talk is based in real-teacher, real-classroom, real-school reality.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Homework-Parenting Dilemmas

I am not a big believer in the value of homework. Though not as vehement in my opposition as some, I just don't find it all that useful, especially in the lower grades. I have read many interesting articles and reviews of the research, but I am not going to go into that here. Mainly I want to explore and seek feedback on the dilemma that I am presented with as a parent.
I understand that my children's teachers have different views than I. I accept that my children attend a school where assigning homework is required. My strategy, for the most part, has been to work homework into our after-school routine and let the kids do it themselves. I rarely look at it unless my help is specifically requested, which it rarely is.
When I do look at the work, I find it consists of a bit of practice or busy-work; occasionally there is a "project" requiring me to go to the store and buy a poster-board or some art supplies.

In my own defense, I do engage with my children in many ways that, I believe, impact them educationally. I read aloud to each of my children almost every night, discussing and laughing over stories and characters. We play word games like Boggle and Scrabble. My son and I have a beloved storytelling game that we have been playing for years. I bake with them. We play board games and thinking games, guessing games and Mad Libs.

But when it comes to homework, I am just not that involved. And I wonder, sometimes, if I'm doing something wrong. I see how involved other parents are in their child's homework, taking the opportunity to teach their child and help them. They show them, through this, that school is important and that they care. Although I am not outwardly negative about the homework and I do what is required of me, I do not give my children that extra bit of help and attention where homework is concerned. This is not my way of protesting my children's homework, it is simply the last thing I care to spend my precious minutes on, in a busy family and work-filled life.

Am I doing a disservice?
Last night my daughter and her friend worked on an assignment to create a flyer about Florida. I set them up with two laptops and left them to the task. Afterwards, the friend's mom noticed a spelling error in her daughter's work and asked me to reprint her flyer. I then took a moment to look at my own daughter's work. There were several errors of spelling and punctuation. I now feel that I should sit with her and help her correct her mistakes, and I very well might, but is this MY job? Or is this the teacher's job? I know that parents and teachers are in partnership together. I am not trying to be dense or difficult or to push an anti-homework agenda. I am questioning the purpose of why we do what we do, we being teachers, as I am also a teacher. I am also faced with a dilemma: as an educator who cares very much about learning and substance and very little about grades, do I try to care more about the grades in order to help my children? The other mom said that she thought it was important to correct her daughter's work because the flyer counts for a "quiz grade." I had to admit that I had no idea what kind of grade the flyer counted for and I personally don't feel motivated to help my daughter because something counts as a "quiz grade." If I help my daughter it will be because I do want her to learn (and think she should already know) that Florida starts with a capital "F," and you should always read over and check your work before printing.

My daughter, when asked, rarely understands the purpose of her work. She tries very hard to comply with what is asked of her, not understanding the learning behind it. I try hard to be true to myself while also trusting my children's teachers and being generally supportive. What do you think? Is homework a parent's responsibility?