Last year, I had pretty simple homework policy: there was no homework. I had tried giving homework at the beginning of the year and the return rate was pretty pathetic. To be fair, transfer high school students have lives beyond the life of a stereotypical high school suburbanite. They work to support their households. Some of them have kids of their own to take care of. As an alternative to homework, I gave a mini quiz at the end of class everyday (yes, very Teach for America-like), which was supposed to pressure students to focus in class. It did work (well, sort of): I had an ~80% average for daily quiz grades.
Unfortunately, no homework also meant no retention. So by the time the Regents exams came along in January and June, the students who weren't letting the material sink in properly ended up failing. Miserably. Seriously, I could have easily submitted some of their answers here. Only the students who truly absorbed the material and studied on their own time passed.
Note: To be fair, there were also some lucky idiots who did not take class seriously, but also passed. Apparently, the Algebra Regents exam isn't rocket science (shhh!). Guessing a whopping 13 out of 30 questions correctly on the multiple choice guarantees you a passing score of 65. We have high standards in the state of New York.This year has been different. Not only do we have quizzes everyday, but I've also been dishing out homework nearly everyday and the return rate has been beyond my expectations
FYI: my expectations were zero.I try to keep the number of homework problems to five. My logic is that they should be able to complete homework assignments on a subway ride back home. The goal is to get them to think about what they learned in class, outside of class. Now, I have students who come in late and the first thing they want to do is interrupt my class and show me their homework. Students who were absent are coming to class, finding their homework from the days they missed and desperately trying to get my attention when they finish.
"Yo Mista, can I turn this in late?"At this point, I really want to thank the New York City Water Sanitation Department for putting whatever they have been putting into the water supply this year. Some "get-your-homework-poison" no doubt...
Things weren't like this last year. Or maybe I hadn't set the homework expectation properly at the beginning of the year. Whatever it is now, I'll run with it. Literally. I've been waking up every other day at 5 AM to work out, do pull ups and push ups. Things running smoothly had put me in a good mood. Here's to a good start so far.