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Teacher opinion: 'It's time to acknowledge that homework is a waste of time.'

Homework. The mere mention of the word petrifies and infuriates the ears and minds of today's youth. Once a useful educational tool, it is now heavily debated among experts, teachers, and parents alike, and for good reason too. 

Homework no longer has the same academic power or prowess that it was known for by our rote-learning-taught parents. In this age of iPads, smart watches and digital natives, homework is about as useful as chalk on a chalkboard. It is for this very reason that the practice of 'setting homework' needs to be overhauled to meet the needs of the future leaders of this nation. 

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Homework cripples students with anxiety. Many students start school eager to learn and are overjoyed with the socialising aspects it has to offer.

Very quickly however, piles and piles of homework ruin this picturesque portrait and school becomes nothing more than a prison; teachers become the prison guards and homework becomes the death sentence.

I have had far too many students fall behind in their schoolwork simply due to the amount of homework unloaded upon them. 

Five to seven subjects. Multiple classes a week. Homework issued after every single lesson - you do the maths. 

Young people are not equipped with the necessary skills or ability to juggle homework, sleep, socialising and academic progression at school all at once. This intense pressure inevitably causes students to become paralysed by anxiety. 

Young people are statistically less likely than any other age group to seek help when they are distressed, and an overabundance of homework just makes the matter worse.   

I have one Year 8 girl, in particular, who has recently fallen victim to such an affliction. She started off this year with an extremely positive mindset: she was going to try her hardest in every subject, especially her least and most trying subjects, Maths and Science. 

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Almost immediately, she was bombarded with homework - due on top of take-home assignments - and she struggled to keep up with it all. 

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She fell behind and as the class content kept moving ahead, she could not catch up on previous work while keeping up with the current workload. 

Her mum actually voiced her concern about it to me as she had noticed her usually talkative and bubbly daughter turn into a shell of herself: too overwhelmed by anxiety to get out of her bedroom; too scared to get out of the car to go to school; too scared to ask for help because she was so far behind. 

The only way to get her back to where she was at the beginning of the year was to request that her teachers stop issuing homework. This small yet significant action had an immense impact upon her wellbeing and gave her a sense of capability. 

This student is not alone in her perils though. Each year, more and more students are clinically diagnosed with anxiety and yet, nothing is done with homework to minimise its contribution to it. It is cruel to exert this amount of pressure upon young, curious minds.  

@cmw1129

Reply to @tafgarcia Me not assigning homework, doesn’t make me any less of a teacher. My kids show me mastery of content in class. #teachersoftiktok

♬ original sound - Courtney 💕

Homework negatively impacts students' desire to learn.

In every classroom, there is a spread of academic ability, but each child is there with a passion to know more about the world in which they live. Gifted students are especially intrigued with needing to know more, particularly if it is in an area that interests them. 

However, once additional homework is added to the equation, the enthusiasm to learn and to put in decent effort for a task drastically diminishes. 

I conducted an experiment within my own English classes for a month whereby I issued homework for the first two weeks and stopped for the last two. It was rather fascinating to note that during the initial two weeks of assigned homework, students did not perform as well academically as they had stayed up late completing the work. 

Students may have completed their homework, but they could not articulate what they had taken away from it as they had done it while tired.

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They also had the assistance of their parents, whose vocabulary was clearly coming through in their responses, and most discussion was merely a regurgitation of their parents’ ideas.

In comparison however, the two weeks of no homework saw lively discussions and reflections from the students who were actively participating during each class. 

Students were able to think critically about topics and provide their own thoughtful opinions to issues. It was clear that with a little more sleep and less stress, students were thriving in their learning. 

This just goes to show how important it is to put student well-being far above any tick-box requirements.  

Homework also creates unnecessary extra effort for teachers who already are overwhelmed as is. 

A lot of teachers honestly do not like setting homework as it just becomes more 'work' for them, but they must issue it if their school, or academically inclined parents, mandate it. 

Assigning homework is a repetitive process: taking it up; correcting it; and giving constructive feedback. I will openly admit that sometimes there just is not enough time in the day to go through 29 pieces of homework for one class and give feedback in a timely manner so, I gloss over and provide a general response for each student.

This is not effective and definitely does not encourage students to want to excel in their own learning but, with all the roles and tasks that teachers must fulfil within their professional contract – as well as the additional ones that get hurled at you – there is no other way to go about it. 

Homework no longer serves as a beneficial tool in schools and it is about time that this fact is openly acknowledged and acted upon. 

Students need to be supported to flourish in their learning, and assigning homework does not allow for this. For the youth of today, homework is deemed a punishment, a consequence. 

It is a hindrance to their well-being and to their emotional and intellectual growth. We should be encouraging students to grow into open-minded, forward-thinking individuals, and it is only with an end to homework that this can be achieved.  

Feature Image: Getty.

Anonymous is a third-year secondary teacher from Metropolitan Melbourne. They have chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.


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