Teacher Brandy Young’s students got a pleasant surprise this week when she posted a new policy about homework:
As stated, Mrs. Young questions the value in sending kids home with worksheets. Instead, she encourages families to engage in nurturing activities which have been proven to boost academic performance.
The response to this post has been largely positive. Most parents favor the idea of limiting unnecessary work because it interferes with family time. I, too, am a fan of Mrs. Young’s policy, but for a completely different reason: I believe the land of homework is an uneven playing field in which privileged children succeed and others fall behind.
In an ideal family, parents know about assignments, take time to explain difficult concepts, and even hire tutors when needed. But not every family is ideal.
My dad worked all the time, and my mother was drunk and neglectful. We stayed out of their way or else paid with harsh discipline. So, as a tiny schoolgirl with no support, I just assumed the reason my homework wasn’t as good as the other children’s was because I wasn’t as good.
A clear example of this occurred during the third-grade science fair.
Each person in my class got to display an exhibition of their choosing. It was supposed to help us get excited about science. The boy to my left boasted a huge Paleolithic diorama that resembled something out of the Smithsonian. The girl to my right worked an intricate lever on a 3D pop-out poster explaining nuclear fission.
Then there was my presentation: a tattered shoebox filled with various mosses I found around the yard, labeled in my shaky, third-grade penmanship. There was no comparing my moss box of shame with Sammy Smithsonian’s diorama of glory, and everyone knew it.
I was embarrassed.
I felt stupid.
As a nine-year-old, it never occurred to me that my classmates’ parents took the time to help them with their projects while I had to fend for myself. They had moms who went to the craft supply shop for dinosaur figurines and dads who procured Styrofoam pallets from their workplaces.
I had parents who never even asked me what I was doing in school–and they sure as hell didn’t help me with my homework.
In the classroom, I was bright and always made high scores on tests. Yet, because of bad homework grades, my GPA was low and, therefore, I just assumed I wasn’t smart enough. In hindsight, I understand that if I had had more support at home, I wouldn’t have struggled with my grades.
Perhaps the best thing about eliminating homework is that it offers a greater chance of success for pupils without adult support. Some kids don’t have the privilege of a good home life, and they shouldn’t suffer because of their parents’ negligence.
Mrs. Young’s policy is a first step in acknowledging this disparity between her students. It will be interesting to see their learning outcomes as the year progresses.