Less Stress: Work Only At Work

281329_44311I rarely take work home any more. I used to do it all the time. Then I noticed something. I rarely got any work done at home, and I felt guilty about not getting it done at home. I also realized that when I didn’t take work home, I didn’t fall too far behind when I got back to school. I am able to find ways to catch up, or find corners to cut.

What if the only work we had to grade were quizzes and exams? How would that transform our classrooms and our lives? What if we set up our grading scale something like this:

Daily Work – 10%
Quizzes – 40%
Tests – 50%

I understand that some schools set their grading system up for you, but couldn’t it be modified in some way to make something similar to this work? If the highest grade each student can get on a homework assignment is 20, and the highest grade you can get on a quiz is an 80, then that system is set up. Think outside the box. Basically, we need to determine the reason behind assigning homework.

The reason behind homework
When I first started teaching, I wanted to assign practice record grades to the students for practicing at home and getting a parent signature on a page that they turned in. I asked a friend about it and she told me that her practice grades were 10% of the grade. I asked why and she told me:

The whole point of practice records is to get the kids practicing. When we place a much higher value on them, we do two things. We severely punish irresponsibility, and we encourage dishonesty. For this reason, I believe that homework grades should be extremely minimal in the determination of a students’ average.

For most any subject except for English composition, we can let the students do virtually all of the grading in class and use it as a teaching tool. Again, the point of the homework is to get the kids to actually go through the material and come up with answers. If you want to get crazy and give out a grading rubric for the written papers, then that will let the students know what kinds of things you are looking for and should end up producing better essay questions on tests anyway. Besides, when you trust the students enough to grade their own papers, you will gain a little bit of respect from them. And that can go a long way.

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So how does this relate to stress?
Many of the teachers I talk with tell me that one of the things they hate most about their jobs is all of homework they have to grade. If we can eliminate the amount of papers they have to grade (we start by reducing paperwork in general), then we can free up an inordinate amount of time for personal activities.

I know that these grading ideas are revolutionary to some and counterintuitive to others, but I believe wholeheartedly that they work.

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

2 Comments on Less Stress: Work Only At Work

  1. I used to put kids in groups of 4 and let them come up with a group name. Then they would go over homework together and turn in one group paper. Then groups would switch papers and we would grade them together as a class. That whole group got the same grade. The group would get points according to the group grade (9 points for 90s etc.) and at the end of the month, the group with the highest points won a prize. For each person that didn’t have their homework, the group lost 2 points each so peer pressure encouraged kids to have their homework. The kids loved it and I loved it because I didn’t have to grade those papers!

  2. Great! I love these comments. As a band director, it’s hard for me to know whether or not the ideas I have would translate well into a normal classroom setting. It’s encouraging to know that “normal” classroom teachers think they would! Thank you!

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