Homework – to give or not to give?

I’ve been pondering this question a lot lately, and I just don’t know what the answer is.  I hate giving homework because I hate grading it.  And yes, I do feel obligated to grade most (not all) homework I assign, or the students won’t do it.  I hate grading homework because it takes away from time I could be spending lesson planning, working on my own professional development, or watching TV (which is also really, really important, and eats up about 15-20 hours out of my week.  Watching TV is my second job.)  I also hate giving homework because there’s always someone who forgot to do it, and then you have to decide – do you accept late homework?  How late can it be?  Everybody forgets homework sometimes, right?  Do you really want to be the mean teacher who doesn’t accept any excuses (especially the “my daughter had to go to the hospital last night, so please be nice to me” excuse)?  On the other hand, will you be able to maintain your slippery hold on sanity if you let students turn homework in late?

I love giving homework because it means that learning continues outside of the classroom.  I want students to know that they don’t stop learning English just because they’re not in my class.  I love giving homework because then I can really see my students’ progress, and I can give them consistent feedback (and thus feel like I have fulfilled my solemn duties as a teacher).  I love giving homework because, as much as students complain, they actually complain if you never give them homework because they begin to wonder if you really taught them anything.  Homework is a great way to prove “yes, I really did teach you something.  So there.”

But I am so tired of being “the homework police.”  I’m up to my ears in grading, and it’s all little assignments scattered around in little piles all over my office.  Giving homework makes me tired, and I think it makes my students tired too.  Learning shouldn’t be exhausting.  Learning should be exhilarating.  When did learning become about assigning busy work so that I can prove that I’ve done my job?  There’s got to be a better way.

Of course, it’s the middle of the session.  This post wouldn’t pop up the first week when I’m running on the excitement of new students and new ideas, but I think the idea nags me even then.  I don’t know if the benefits of homework really outweigh the drawbacks.  I also don’t know what kind of looks I’d get from my boss and co-workers if I said I was going to nix homework next session.  Thoughts, anyone?

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