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"I Hate Homework!" : A Teacher Remembers

Authored By: 
Michelle Koza, English Teacher

When I was in the sixth grade, I wrote a long tirade to my grandmother complaining about my teacher’s terrible penchant for assigning too much homework. Now a teacher myself, I assign homework every day of the week, including weekends.

And yet, my twelve-year-old self was on to something. I don’t think my students enjoy homework any more than I did. And seriously, who really wants to do work? Don’t get me wrong--I love my job. I get to talk, play, and learn with kids all day long. It’s a privilege, really. But it doesn’t quite feel that way when I realize my lesson bombed and my students really didn’t learn what I had hoped. Writing formal lesson plans, curriculum maps, scope and sequences, and any of the other administrivia that comes with the territory is no ticker-tape parade, either.

I don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn any more than my students want to do their homework, but as an adult I think I can begin to realize that the product of work is internal. Perhaps Joseph Conrad said it best: “I don't like work--no man does--but I like what is in the work--the chance to find yourself. Your own reality--for yourself not for others--what no other man can ever know.” That’s why I remind my students that they don't work for me; they work for themselves.

The first year I taught, I had an instructive experience with a sophomore. I asked her, why do you do homework? She responded: to get a grade. I was amazed that she didn't find it self-evident that the purpose of homework was to learn something—the grade is merely incidental. When she graduated she came to me and said she remembered our conversation about work, and that it had transformed her attitude towards school. She got it! The purpose of schoolwork is not a grade, but the flourishing of a human mind.