As Mother's Day approaches and "spring fever" is settling in, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on the significant roles that mothers (and fathers) play in homework.
As a young student, I had my share of homework arguments with my mom. As an adult, I have become more and more appreciative of the tenacity my mother had to put up with me and my frustration towards homework. I have also discovered a few things I wish she could have understood when I was crying over long division...
Things I Wish My Mom Knew When I Was Upset Over Homework...
- I am tired of feeling lost. It seems like everyone else understands this stuff without any problems. I feel stupid. The teacher does an example on the board and I'm lost. It doesn't make sense to me.
- I don't understand why I need to learn this stuff! When will I ever need to know how to do long division? I can use a calculator. I'm tired of wasting my time.
- I don't want your attention for homework. I would rather do something much more fun with you!
- Finally, and most significantly... I'm not THIS upset over just this one long division problem. It's the fact that I still have 20 more to do after this one and I still do not have a clue what I am doing! I will be here forever and I will never have any fun in my life again, ever!
Things My Mom Probably Wish I Understood...
- You can do this! You just need to settle down so your brain can think about math instead of thinking about the anxiety you are creating for yourself.
- You will be grateful that you know how to do long division when you are stranded on a deserted island like Gilligan -without a calculator- and will need long division to figure out how to build a radio out of a coconut. (Okay, who am I kidding... my mom does not even know who Gilligan is, but she tried to tell me I would be grateful for knowing this stuff, even if I did use a calculator. She was right.)
- There are so many things I would rather be doing with you, too! But, I love you and your education is VERY important to me, so I am willing to put up with you and your tantrums. Too bad you are so stubborn, er, uh... independent... like me.
- You are doing this to yourself. You are feeling lost and overwhelmed over your 20 long division problems because you keep telling yourself that you can't do it. When you tell yourself you can't, you close your brain off from any chance of learning.
Something Neither of Us Knew...
...that someday, our arguments and fights would give me a greater appreciation for the frustrations my students feel and would allow me to be a much more empathetic teacher. Who knew all of those fights and arguments were actually career preparation in disguise??
Moms (and dads) are the unsung heroes of homework and school success. As a teacher, I can tell you from experience that students who do not have significant support from parents do not have any interest or motivation in school. Being a homework coach is an extraordinarily tough job, but it will pay off!
In the meantime, I hope this article gives parents something to talk about with their children. For students, I hope you can find some way to say "thanks" to your parents for all of their support with homework and school...perhaps you can work extra hard to earn a good grade in their honor, maybe you make an effort to settle down and try to be patient while trying to learn your homework, or maybe you simply give mom or dad a hug and say, "Thanks!"
As for me, this article is my "thank you" to my mom, but she already knows how much I appreciate her patience with me back then. Now, she has fun sitting back and watching me deal with my son's "independent" spirit...
Happy Mother's Day to all!