1. I will never assign “busy work.”
2. The work I assign will be reasonable.
3. The work is necessary for them to understand the material being studied.
Given those conditions it goes without saying that when I assign homework I expect students to complete the work. Well ok, I hear you – what happens when they don’t do it?
I and other teachers on my campus have the support of amazing administrators. The way I collect assignments is really straightforward. First, I print a class roster. Second, I call each student by name and ask them to turn in their work. When they turn in the work, I glance over it. If the work is complete and appears to be done correctly, I say thank you and check their name.
If the student does not have their work, it is incomplete, or obviously poorly done, I say, “I’ll see you after school” and put an X by their name. I then proceed with class. Collecting the work only takes a few minutes. At some point in class or at my earliest opportunity I e-mail the names of students that need to stay after school to my principal and assistant principal. These administrators help “capture” these students to make sure they stay after school to complete their work.
If a student fails to show up after school their absence is treated just like skipping a class – it is considered truancy. If a student fails to show up more than once, there are consequences that are administered by the principal. When a student says, “I have athletics…” we say, “not until after tutorials.” If they say, “I have things to do” we say, “not until after tutorials.” If they say, “I don’t have a ride” we say, “call your parents – figure it out.” Put simply – there are no excuses.
In the first three weeks of school it is a real chore to train the students, but after that our system works well. When our entire campus is consistent in our expectations students soon figure out the easiest thing to do is get their work done. I have had students that are assigned tutorials because they didn’t finish a couple of problems. They then “forget” tutorials. By the time they spend three days of after school detention with the principal over a couple of unfinished problems they learn to make homework a priority. Sure they are mad at first, but then they figure out doing their work helps them perform better in class.
In summary it is a very simple system. We make it clear to our students that completing their work is a priority. We don’t get angry when it is not done; we just make sure they do it in tutorials – that day. If that inconveniences a child or their parents then we hope it is a learning opportunity to manage their time better in the future.
95% of the students decide quickly that the easiest thing to do is complete the work. There is always the 5% that will not do their work no matter what. That’s ok; we are there with them every single day after school in tutorials.