About Homework: Do you do your homework?

Two months ago I wrote about my One Word for the New Year… It was LEARN.

one word

Essentially, I dedicated myself to learning,  learning new things and things that are important to my work:  Response to Intervention, Classical Music and Spanish.

I want to give you a progress report on how I’ve been doing because my progress has given me insight into an area of school about which I have developed a particular passion as well as some strong opinions.

Here goes:

Classical music

Doing fairly well on this goal.  I’ve identified a podcast by the San Francisco Symphony orchestra that focuses on one classical piece in each episode.  The music director, Michael Tilson Thomas, unpacks the piece, explains the musical elements as well as providing information about what was happening in the composer’s life and the world when the piece was created.  The biographical and historical contexts really make the piece come alive.  In sf symphonya recent episode I learned that Schubert is a completely different guy than Schumann and he wrote a beautiful piece about the changing seasons.   Various sections of the piece are played as the significance and context are described.  This works for me because the podcasts are each between 10-20 minutes long, and I listen while I’m in my car.  So I’m sort of multitasking.  Also, I love the music, who wouldn’t.  It is fantastic!

Learning Spanish

On January 2nd I signed up for an account on DuoLingo.   This is a website and an app that allows you to learn Spanish at your own pace. It’s really cool because you get to set the level when you begin as well as a goal including how much time you plan to devote to it each day. I chose 10 minutes.

That first day I did my 10 minutes.  I learned how to say, in Spanish, “I am a man” / “Yo soy un hombre”.   I also learned how to say I am THE man; “Yo soy el hombe”.   I enjoyed saying this to my wife around the house quite a bit.   But after January 2nd, I did not do anymore Spanish lessons.  Not once (insert frowny emoticon here).

Response to Intervention

In November I attended a conference on this topic sponsored by Solution Tree together with three of my colleagues. We enjoyed the time we spent together and although we have worked together for many years I feel that we truly bonded over the three days in this intense learning environment.   I have continued my learning in the area of RtI  because  the four of us meet regularly to discuss and share ideas. Also, we are preparing a forum with the other secondary administrators to talk about a plan for the implementation of RtI in the middle school and high school.

At our school (@JerichoMS) we use a standards-based grading philosophy and have adopted Marzano’s standards-based generic scoring scale (more in this subject in a future post).    Anyhow, if I were to grade my performance on my 3 learning goals I would do so as follows:

Classical music = A


Response to intervention = B+

Conversational Spanish = ND

(Not Demonstrated. We do not use the “F” grade for failing, what’s “Failing” anyway?  But back when I was in high school or at a less enlightened school than my own, I would be “Failing” Spanish. )

This experience has caused me to reflect upon my opinions and my approach to a topic that has particularly arrested my attention in this year:  Homework.

I have researched the topic with great enthusiasm because although homework is an educational factor that touches the lives of students and families in a profound way, we haven’t adequately scrutinized our practices with regard to either what the research indicates or what our own experiences are telling us about homework.  I am part of a Voxer discussion group based on the book, Rethinking Homework by Cindy Vanderoot.  I also had the privilege of facilitating a district level discussion forum for parents on this topic.  To prepare for this forum I augmented my reading in the area of homework.   For those interested, I recommend Vanderott’s book, Andrew Hattie’s Visible Learning and anything by Robert Marzano, Rick Wormeli, and Alfie Kohn.


Influenced by Scott Bedley, and others, I have embraced the view that we should sincerely consider moving to an optional homework model.   Scott is a 5th grade teacher in San Diego, I encourage you to read his blog post on this subject.  Scott also did a Google Hangout with us that you can watch.

But what about me?   The reason I’m getting a poor grade in conversational Spanish is that I am NOT doing my homework.     And my homework is optional, is it not?   I’m a fully grown grown up and I’m not doing my homework!  How can I expect my students to do it if it’s optional?

I’m going to leave this post as “Part 1” and pose several questions to myself as well as to the reader:

Do you do homework?   How much?   WHY DO you do it?  Are there times that you have homework that you don’t do?

Do you think that these comparisons between the work adults do and the work that students do are valid?

Why am I doing my classical music and Response to Intervention homework but NOT doing my conversational Spanish homework?

Should these reflections cause me to revise my opinion about homework?

Okay, I’m going to put down my pen and do some thinking…  Stay tuned for part 2…

About dfgately

Middle School Principal Jericho, NY
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to About Homework: Do you do your homework?

  1. dschug2014 says:

    Don, I always appreciate your willingness to experience the vulnerability that comes with being a learner. We all need to do that more often, and in greater depth. Your synthesis of ideas here and reflection questions have me thinking – and rethinking – my own definition of homework options. Looking forward to reading part 2!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s