This chapter focuses on the varying differences of parent values and teacher values. Parents can range from the belief of “more homework is always better” to “there are better things than more homework.” Teachers need to be aware of these varying views, and be respectful of the wishes of the parents. At the same time, it is impossible to please everyone.
Gone are the days in which everyone in the community shared the same values, making things predictable. Now, people need to fear the legal ramifications of holding students to a moral standard that may not align with how the students were raised.
One example of differing priorities that is present on pages 32 and 33 reminds me of several students in Franklinville. They are responsible for helping out at home after school. When a school district mandated after school time to improve student grades, something that is similar to what we do, one parent complained of having to pay for a babysitter. As we continue to explore ways to help failing students, we need to keep in mind the parents’ values.
Since it is impossible for a school to demand homework on families, some teachers have found ways to be flexible: assigning work weekly or monthly, or even handing out a course syllabus (p. 34).
The variety of parents starts with parents who think helping their children with homework is not in their job description. At the other end of the spectrum we have parents that do their child’s homework to ensure good grades. As teachers, we need to be more aware of the level of difficulty for each student. The ideal, obviously, would be work that students could do on their own, without relying on the help of their parents.
On page 38, we see that homework is one of the leading causes of drop-outs. “The inability to keep up with homework was a critical factor in the decision of lower-class students to drop out of school.” The reality in Franklinville is that the majority of the demographic is of lower-class. There is little draw for a middle-class family to come to (and stay in) Franklinville. I believe that homework is a major factor for a few of our students who have dropped out, or are at risk for dropping out, even this year. I have been analyzing the Warning and Ineligible Lists for the year, and many of the names on there are people that have dropped out or that I am concerned for.
Parallel to the change in dictatorial parent relations, there was a change from dictatorial school relations. Schools and teachers used to be accepted as the experts on education, and parents saw schools as an institution that needed their support – simply because the school demanded it. Now, in a consumer-driven world, schools are viewed as a service that owes something to the parents, instead of the other way around. Schools that are in a lower tax-base area, and therefore do not have the funds to support themselves, no longer have the support of the parents as well.
This lack of volunteer involvement can be seen in other aspects of society as well. People no longer feel obligated ot help out at the local church, nursing home, library, or fire department. Instead, they are looking for involvement that can benefit themselves or their families. The only students involved in any kind of community service are either mandated by the court, or are seeking to bulk up their resume for college of National Honor Society.
On the other hand – in the minds of veteran teachers and administrators – supportive parents meant parents willing to do whatever a school said without question. Certainly those days are over. It may be perhaps that parents are more involved today than they used to be, simply because they are taking a stand as to what their child will or will not participate in during school.
So, how do we proceed? How do we close the gap between parent expectations and school expectations regarding involvement, especially with homework? The book gives a few suggestions on pages 46-54.
- Get real – We cannot control every aspect of the child’s life.
- Resist the temptation to judge – As we all know, whining will get you nowhere; accept what you’re given and welcome the support you do have. It’s easier to call students (and possibly their parents) lazy than to analyze our own teaching models.
- Revise expectations of Parental Support – Schools shouldn’t expect all parents to be involved, yet subconsciously, we do.
- Suggest (not mandate) guidelines for the parents’ role in homework – We (as a school district) need to be in constant communication with parents – letting them know what we expect from them at various grade levels. Parents need to be letting us know when an assignment is too difficult, or the students needed help with something. This way, when it returns completed, we don’t assume that the child understands the content. Wording these guidelines can be tricky, so some examples are given on p. 50 in Figure 2.1.
- Establish formal methods of parent-teacher communication – There are a few surveys that are available on pages 51-53 that can serve as a tool for parents to communicate to the schools about homework views. The homework card (Figure 2.2) should be filled out for each individual student. The Parent Survey (Figure 2.3) would be easy enough to include in beginning of the year paperwork, and be made available to the teachers, so that the parents only have to fill out one each year instead of per child, save for question #1. There is also a Parent Feedback checklist (Figure 2.4) designed to go along with every assignment. I would send these out the first week that homework goes out, and then as different styles of homework go out throughout the year.
- Set parents’ minds at ease about homework – Parents who have tried communicating with the school and feel that they are not being heard are weary of doing it again. They see talking to teachers about homework the same as talking to a wall. We need to collectively reassure them that their child will not be penalized for not completing homework that the students gave their best effort on.
- Endorse a set of inalienable homework rights – There is an example of one such Bill of Homework Rights in Figure 2.5 on pg. 55.
We need to work together as a school district and community to figure out how best to handle homework for our students. It will require patience, respect, and effort from both sides.