Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Homework, Re-revisited

From Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary:

en·abler ( i-'nA-b(&-)l&r) noun : one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior ... by providing excuses or by helping that individual avoid the consequences of such behavior.

Well, it's started already. The parents of the 49 students I mentioned in the last post all got letters home about their children not doing their homework, and some of them are already in full enabler mode.

Here's one message I received from one parent:
I received your letter in regards to [name]'s missing assignments.  I was very disturbed by this and both her father and myself had a very in-depth conversation with her.  I understand as per your letter that you do not accept missing homework's.  I do however feel that a child should be given a chance to make up work.   
Here's another gem:
Apparently the web address to your homework blog was either misspelled on the board or she copied it wrong into her notebook, leaving her unable to retrieve and complete previous work. ...  Now that she has the correct address, you should be receiving homework from her on a regular basis.

I would also like to ask if you could extend a professional courtesy and allow [name] to make up the missing credits. I was told that you do not allow homework to be made up, but maybe giving her an alternate assignment would be possible.
[emphasis added in both.]

I wish I could say that such vapid, self-serving nonsense was rare, but obviously I'd be lying. It is also not even the least bit surprising that these messages came from parents of two of my more unpleasant, self-absorbed and peevish children (one, in fact, got so many questions wrong on the responsibility/attitude-based take-home quiz that I almost thought she was joking).

I'm not going to pick apart the (il)logic of the "unable to retrieve" canard in the second message (except to point out that the students were given the web address two weeks ago), nor dignify the "misspelled on the board" lie with a response. I was struck, though, by the second message's characterization of makeup/extra credit work as a "professional courtesy." On the one hand, at least the writer did not characterize it as an entitlement. I also give the writer credit for phrasing it in the interrogative. But why call it a "professional courtesy?" The way I understand it, a "professional courtesy" is a courtesy extended by one professional to another, usually where both parties are members of the same profession. That obviously doesn't apply here. I don't want to belabor the point, and I'll give the writer the benefit of the doubt. I just hope it wasn't an attempt to shame me into granting the "courtesy" at the risk of being "unprofessional."

The first writer, on the other hand, is apparently under the belief that "a child should be given a chance to make up work." I hear that a lot. "They deserve another chance." Stuff like that. To which, I have one question, and I challenge anyone to give me a good answer:


Friday, September 18, 2009

Homework, Revisited

I am assigning homework this year for the first time since at least 2004. The reasons why I have not given homework, I discussed earlier this year in "Testing 1-2-3...".

I have 146 students this year, all 10th graders. As of yesterday I had given three (3) homework assignments. Out of 146, 49 have yet to submit a single one (excluding the Honors class, the numbers are even worse: 48 out of 115). Of the remaining 97, 28 have submitted only one of the three. Only 18 of the 115 non-Honors students have submitted all three.

Your witness, counselor.