Homework Dilemmas: High expectations, no excuses

Last night, I received a phone call from one of my scholars.  I tell my students that if they ever have a question about their homework to give me a call.  I include my contact information on their homework packets.   Below is the conversation between myself and the student:

Me:  Hello!

Him:  Is this Ms. Bunting?

Me:  Yes! Hello, (students name)!

Him:  Ms. Bunting, I think I’m going to have homework hall tomorrow.

Me:  Why?

Him:  My mom doesn’t have time to sign my homework.  She has to put my little sister to bed.

Me:  Aww well is your dad home?

Him:  He’s a sleep.

Me:  Okay, ask your mom to sign your homework after she puts your sister to bed.

Him:  I don’t think she’ll remember.

Me:  Okay, ask your mom or dad to sign it in the morning.

Him:  It’s really busy in our house in the morning.

Me:  Okay, well have your mom or dad sign it before they drop you off to school.

Him:  Okay, I hope I don’t forget.

Me:  You won’t or else you will have homework hall.  Now, it’s late. You should be going to bed.

Him:  Okay, good night Ms. Bunting.

Me:  Good night (student’s name).  See you tomorrow!

In that moment, I could have told my student not to worry about it.  I could have allowed him to not get it signed and just return to school.  However, I maintained the expectation that his homework needed to be signed and helped him come up with other solutions.  As teachers, sometimes our hearts tell us to allow certain thing to slide.  It is important remember, that we must maintain high expectations because we’re building the character of our students.  I’m so glad my scholar called me and informed me of his problem.  He was being responsible and followed my directions exactly.  Nevertheless, my policy must remain the same for all my students.  I guided him in figuring out other options this time.  Hopefully, in the future, he’ll be able to critically analyze situations and come up with these solutions on his own.

I’ll be sure to give him a shout out in class tomorrow.

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The First Phone Call

Around 9:00pm on the second night of school, I received a phone call from one of my scholar’s parents.  I answered the phone and heard the pleasant voice of my scholar’s mom.  She began by explaining that her son was upset with her because she had not completed the contact form that was part of his homework on the first night.  Since he had not completed all of his homework, he did not receive a sticker for Homework Hoopsters* earlier that day in school.  He was one of three students who had not had this part of his homework completed.

I was thrilled to receive the phone call because it confirmed for me that my scholar was invested in class.  He wanted to be a Homework Hoopster and his mom assured me that he would bring it in the next day.  I explained to her my homework policy and she understood that he would not receive a sticker for that day.  It is best to have a hard, consistent stance with homework or else I risk students making up excuses for not returning homework in the future.   I will be sure to give him a shout out in school on Thursday morning.

*Homework Hoopsters is a monthly homework incentive program that I created last year.  On Monday a homework packet is sent in each child’s homework binder with a class newsletter that includes a place for parent’s to sign each night.  The homework for the week is included in each packet, but students only have to complete that night’s homework.  The next day, the homework is checked by a City Year Corps Member and a sticker is placed by a student’s name on a homework tracker prominently displayed in the room.  At the end of the month, the top homework returners receive a sweet treats (ie cupcakes, cookies, brownies, etc) party.  The treat varies from month-to-month.  Those students also receive a Homework Hoopster certificate.