Note: My school uses PLC as a teacher collaboration structure. PLC stands for professional learning community. I work on the algebra 1 PLC which is comprised of the algebra 1 teachers and the algebra support teacher. We meet once a week for about 90 minutes.
Today is the day I'm going to share the new homework structure with my students! I came up the following template for homework (now called Lesson Reflection). I plan to give this once a week and let the students choose the lesson they want to reflect on. The reflection will be due the following Monday.
To be honest, I'm really nervous about changing to a lesson reflection from traditional homework. The reason I am nervous is because...well, I feel like I'm breaking a BIG rule. Math teachers give homework. Math students (should) do homework. What if the students stop taking my class seriously because there is no homework? What if the students don't remember anything because they didn't practice? What if there is a total break down of the system without homework?
I"m keeping Jo Boaler in the back of my mind today...I know the research supports this. But change and growth always feel scary.
I read Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler this summer. I loved this book! I would recommend it for any teacher--not just math teachers. There are powerful messages about equity and mindset as well as strategies for effectively teaching a diverse population of students.
Mathematical Mindsets reminded me that some of the routines I do in my class aren't just things I like to do--these routines support students in seeing math as a space where learning happens via mistakes and productive struggle. My HW grading routine, my warmup routine of My Favorite Mistake and some of the group tasks I do give student space to make mistakes, reflect on the mistake, and try again (without being punitive in terms of grades).
|My favorite poster in my room: "Mistakes Are the Gateway to Understanding"|
Mathematical Mindsets also challenged my thinking about certain aspects of my teaching practice; especially around grading and homework. My algebra 1 classes already use an alternative grading scale that our came up with several years ago. I like this scale--we had to do a lot of work to calibrate our tests with this scale (as well as how we grade tests), but, after 3 years, we've worked out many of the kinks.
|Algebra 1 Grading Scale (we do not give a grade of D)|
Now, as I begin week 9 of this school year, I'm really thinking about homework. This sentence from Mathematical Mindsets is ringing in my ears: "when we assign homework to students, we provide barriers to the students who most need our support" (p. 107).
So this morning I shared a modest proposal with the algebra PLC leads: could we discuss homework at the PLC meeting this week? Specifically, I asked them "in the spirit of inquiry, could I not give homework to my algebra 1 students? Like, can we see if my students do better/worse/the same as the other teachers' students on the unit test if I don't give homework?"
I feel like asking the PLC to consider this is taking a risk. But I also think teacher leaders need to take risks. Again, I can hear Jo Boaler, in her lovely English accent, saying, "if as a teacher or school leader you want to promote equity and take the brave step of eradicating homework..." (p. 108). Yes! I want to promote equity! I can see, real time, that the biggest outcome from homework right now is amplifying existing inequities. Yes! I want to be a teacher leader. So I'm going to take the risk.
I'll let you know how it goes!