TEACHER: Class, make sure you have put your homework in the tray by the window so you can get credit for it. No name, no credit!
Wait, what year is this? Eight years ago in my middle school classroom, this was the norm. In October of 2015, this is still happening....more often than not. The 'eight years ago" me would argue that there is nothing wrong with the old fashioned way....but a lot has happened in eight years. Not just in education, but in the world.
I have three kids. Being a mom has undoubtedly helped with my transformation as an educator so hang in there as I go down memory lane for a moment.
My oldest made it out of high school and is now doing well as a freshman in college. He successfully navigated through...in the background, I was cringing at construction paper and glue stick projects. (Yes, even in high school) He was lucky, though. Over the years, he's often been my test subject and learned how to use Google docs and such before some of his peers. And definitely before some of his teachers.
DISCLAIMER: Not for lack of effort on my part...believe me! Insert digital native mumbo-jumbo here and the fact that some teachers simply need a little more time!
My oldest often asked if he could use technology to complete a task instead of hand writing things since he has difficulty with fine motor skills and I encouraged him. I'll never forget the first time he turned in an English paper by sharing it with the teacher through Google instead of printing...she didn't quite know what to do! But by the end of that school year, progress had been made. I truly credit his present success in college to his Google Drive skills combined with taking many online classes through NCVPS. Oh, did I mention that he is autistic?
Then there is his brother. Same handwriting issues as the big bro. Brilliant mind! He took three high school courses in eighth grade - two through NCVPS. He has no doubt been shaped by watching his brother's struggle, but as important is that he has been extremely lucky to have had a group of dynamic and innovative instructional leaders in middle school. They embraced technology in their classrooms, often blending instruction and giving students flexibility and choice. From math to the media center to the virtual classroom - he had options. He's a messy one, too...settles for mediocrity far more than he should, frustrates the heck out of the adults around him. But, given the parameters of the task and some flexibility to demonstrate his knowledge in ways alternate to paper/pencil - he can do it.
However, he just started high school and it seems to him that he has gone back in time.
The homework line at the top of this post? Wish I could say I made it up. It is from one of his classes. A class in which he has zeros for all of the homework assignments. The teacher told me that he is a very knowledgeable kid and isn't disruptive, but "wastes class time" when given time to work on homework. My son would argue that his time is wasted having to sit there. And he would be right.
I can't help but think about the other kids just like him...he's not alone.
After an arduous week and weekend, I think my son has a plan to change his approach to homework. He will use the class time to plan his approach and design his product...no matter how simple. At home, he will hunker down and pull it all together. Usually he comes up with some pretty good stuff that way. And let's face it - homework isn't going away any time soon. It is only freshman year.
Learning is a journey. He has to take it one step at a time.