It used to be that children went to school and completed a certain amount of work while there, and then brought home an hour or so worth of homework. The normal routine in a public school classroom was that the teacher spent time teaching in front of the entire class, and then walked around to individual students as they completed an assignment to check and make sure that each child was on the right track. Then the teacher assigned the class a homework assignment that was directly related to material covered in class that day. It was a simple, straightforward method. It was a method that worked.
In recent years, classroom routines have changed a lot. The methods practiced in elementary school classrooms are hardly recognizable to the parents of the students. Students are not receiving near as much group instruction from teachers, and often when a child needs individualized assistance, he or she is ignored. If the child cannot complete the assignment, they are kept inside during recess to work on it. If the same child fails to complete the assignment by the end of the school day, the incomplete class work is sent home with the student along with an additional homework assignment that is commonly based on material not yet covered in class. So the child goes home, after a frustrating day with no individualized help from the teacher, to face several hours’ worth of homework. Homework based on material that the child’s parents must now teach.
Although there are some negligent parents out there, a large percentage of parents are perfectly willing to help their child with homework assignments. However, it can be frustrating and even perplexing to parents who begin to realize that their child is not receiving adequate instruction in class. The homework that comes home is clearly class work that the child received no help with while at school, and the homework has nothing to do with anything the teacher has covered in class so far. This can become a painful daily ritual, ending in two or more hours each evening of the parents essentially teaching the material that should have been covered at school.
It is understandable that these parents wonder why their child’s teacher apparently is not actually teaching their child. The reasons vary but can include teachers who are unqualified, inadequate, or even simply lazy and unconcerned. My own third grade son once came home during the first week of school and told me that when he asked his teacher for help, she told him and the rest of the class not to raise their hands or ask for help because she had paperwork she needed to get done for her boss!
Clearly, this situation places a lot of stress on everyone. The ones who obviously suffer the most are the students caught in the middle of a teacher’s lack of instruction and the frustration of parents. Parents sometimes wonder if the majority of the time their child spends at school isn’t time wasted.
If you find yourself in this situation, you can express your concerns to your child’s teacher. However chances are that your concerns will not change the teacher’s practices. Pursuing the matter with the principal or even the school district is an option, but the best result you will likely get are a lot of excuses and an offer to move your child to a different classroom. In the end, it is most likely that you will have to teach your child a good deal of the material yourself.