Homework: Whose Problem Is This?

Parents who are stressed and exhausted by helping with homework feel that way because they make their child’s homework their problem rather than their child’s. And it needn’t be that way!

Here are three things that you can stop doing right now so that the stress and exhaustion disappears.

Stop trying to ‘teach’ your child

You know the situation. Your child can’t do the work that has been set so you try to show him or her how to do it. You end up ‘teaching’ your child – and this is so not your job!

No wonder you get stressed.

Stop doing your child’s work.

Many parents are so hurried and anxious that they do their child’s homework for them! Parents have stayed up late to get a child’s project finished for a school deadline!

Whose homework is this?

Stop nagging your child to do their homework.

How many times do you remind your child that she has homework to do? Does she resent your nagging? I bet she does!

You get stressed over something that is not your problem.

So what can you do to avoid the stress and to stop your child’s homework being your problem.

* If you try to teach your child how to do the work chances are that you are not using the same method as the teacher – result – confusion.

Tell the teacher.

If your child is struggling to do his homework his teacher needs to know. For one reason or another your child has not learned how to do the work. It is his teacher’s responsibility to make sure that he knows what to do. A good teacher will welcome being told that your child has a problem and will either reteach the lesson or give you some tips about how to help your child.

* If you are doing your child’s work for him you are stopping your child learning.

Homework is set so that your child practices or demonstrates what he has learned. If you do your child’s homework the teacher is going to know how well YOU can do the work, not your child.

Now, if you want to show how clever you are go ahead – just don’t expect your child to get anything out of it!

Discover why your child does not get their work finished. Is it too hard? Too boring? Takes too long? Once you know the reason you can do something about it.

* If you nag your child to get homework done you are stopping your child taking responsibility for their own learning, as well as risking your relationship with your child.

Stop nagging!

The more you nag the more you take away your child’s sense of responsibility about their work. Your child stops thinking about when he has to do the work because he knows that you will remind him – again, and again, and again!

Set up reasonable expectations around doing homework such as homework will be done straight after dinner or before anyone watches TV. Make sure that your child agrees to them, then expect your child to take the responsibility of keeping to them.

Remember, homework is not your problem. You have other things to worry about and to do. If you spend your time worrying about your child’s homework these will not get done and your child will miss the learning opportunities only you can give him.

Homework is for your child to do – not you! Stop making it your problem and start doing things that will really make a difference to your child’s school success.

If you want tips on how to do this sign up for my free CD and you will also get my newsletter full of tips on the right way to help your child succeed in school.

How to Avoid Verbal Mannerisms When Teaching

Have you ever been sitting in class or a lecture or just listening to someone speaking using the same word or phrase over and over again, (e.g. ‘ah’; ‘OK’) so that it becomes distracting? Yes, you have!

All of us have words or phrases that we are prone to use often. One such phrase might be, ‘That’s OK’. It is fine to use these phrases often if they are used in the right context. However, it is not ‘okay’ to use them as ‘space fillers’ as you think of what you want to say next. A pause in your speaking is better, as it can create a sense of anticipation in your students about what comes next and gives you a chance to get your thoughts together for what you want to say. Let your eyes roam around the class to make sure the class is ready for what comes next. This is a better ‘space filler’.

As a teacher, one of your prime responsibilities is to be as perfect an example as possible of the correct use of language.

Using words like ‘okay’ often, can show a lack of vocabulary. On the other hand, it might be simply a nervous mannerism created by a lack of confidence in what you are doing or in your content knowledge or in the teaching approach you are using. You need to remember that, as a class teacher, you will always know more than most, if not all, of your students. Therefore, there is no need to be lacking in confidence or to be nervous.

On a more positive note, the use of these words may just be an automatic, involuntary ‘space filler’ designed to give you time to think.

So what do you do to prevent them becoming a distraction to your students?

Firstly, you need to know that they are occurring. Hopefully, your teacher supervisor during your teaching practice will point this out to you and help you eliminate them before you begin your career. Once you have started your career and you suspect you have verbal mannerisms, ask your teaching mentor to observe a lesson to check the situation out.

Once you know you have these mannerisms, there are ways to avoid them.

1. Learn to pause at the time instead of saying the word or phrase. Then, because your conscious and subconscious mind works many times faster than you can speak, the pause in what you are saying will, in fact, be much shorter than you think. Then, decide on what you need to say and say it.

2. This is a good time to look around the class/audience to see how they are reacting to what you are saying. Use this time to think.

3. Make a list of your verbal mannerisms and create a list of words or phrases that you can use to replace the ‘offending’ ones. Here are two examples:

OK, okay:

“Any questions? Are you happy with that? Do you have any problems with this? Do you agree? Do you understand? Do you need any more information before we continue? Now. Next. Alright, let us continue”.


“Correct. That’s correct. That’s right. That’s the correct answer. That’s the right answer. That’s it. Well done. Who agrees with that answer? Yes; Tom, do you get that answer?”

These are, obviously, simple examples. Even so, it is important to make sure the alternative word or phrase fits well into the context you are using. Otherwise, it, too, will become a distraction.

If you have a sense of pride in how well you use language, you will want to eliminate these verbal mannerisms and enlarge your operating vocabulary.

Six Assessments to Check for Understanding

When teaching, it is imperative that teachers are consistently and constantly checking students’ understanding of the content before, during and after class. While we are all familiar with the typical Do Now, Warm Up and Exit Ticket checks for understanding, how can we as teachers ensure that our students grasp the content, while still making the activity fun and engaging? Below is a list of six “quick assessments” that teachers can incorporate into their routine in order to check their students’ understanding, while also identifying difficulties that students might have. The timeframe for the assessments ranges from 1 minute to 20+ minutes depending on how long the teacher wants to spend on the activity.

One to Five

This assessment is very quick and provides teachers with an immediate gauge of how well the students understand the material. After a concept is taught, the teacher can simply ask the students “how well do you understand?” Students will then hold up their fingers 1 (not at all) to 5 (perfect) in order to let the teacher know which students are still struggling. If students are shy and do not want to hold up their fingers, the teacher can place cards on the students’ desk, so the student can simply turn to the card with the appropriate number, out of sight of the other students.

Question Envelope

During class, the teacher will pass around an envelope, and if a student has a question, they can write the question on a question on a note card and put it in the envelope. At the end of the period, the teacher will read and answer the questions in order to clarify any confusion or misconceptions that the students might have.

Question Partner

This is an engaging assessment that can either range from 5 minutes to 20+ minutes depending on how in depth you would like to go. For this activity, students will have a list of questions (that were created by either themselves or the teacher) that they will ask their partner. For this activity to be completed successfully, all students should have a graphic organizer where they write the question and answers provided to them by their partner. By having the students write the answers, they are not only having the material reinforced, but they are also being held accountable for their work.

One-Minute Response

One-minute Response provides quick feedback and a check for understanding about a certain topic to the teacher. The teacher will pose a question to the class, and the class will have a certain amount of time (1-5 minutes) in order to write their response. This activity can be completed at the end of a lesson for a longer period of time (5 minutes), or can be given throughout the lesson in shorter increments (1-2 minutes) to check for understanding.

White Board

This activity is very fun and engaging, and usually well received by the students. The activity can be completed independently or in pairs; group work is not recommended for this activity because it is important that all students’ voices are heard. The teacher will pose a question to the students, and they will have to write their response on a white board. The teacher can either then call on students to explain their answer, or if the students have different answers, they can engage in a discussion on who is correct. If you do not have white boards available, an easy way to make them is by laminating sheets of paper.

Parking Lot

Similar to the Question Envelope, this strategy allows teachers to gather students’ questions in a single location. The teacher should designate a certain part of the room or poster paper to become the “parking lot,” where questions are written. Students can either write their questions on sticky notes and attach them to the parking lot, or can write them directly onto the piece of paper. Parking Lot questions do not have to relate specifically to the content of the day, but can address the essential question or theme of the unit. The teacher can then review the parking lot questions with the class on a daily or weekly basis.

Teaching Styles: Guide on the Side or Sage on the Stage?

In the early 90’s California teachers were getting released in record numbers. There was a huge budget crisis, districts were raising class sizes and eliminating classrooms, which meant many of us had to go. I was a second year teacher, untenured. I received my goodbye notice in March then set out scrambling to find another position.

I found myself interviewing in the growing community of Moreno Valley. I felt I was ready for anything, but I’ll never forget the interviewer asking my about my style of teaching. He asked, “Would you consider yourself a Sage on the Stage or a Guide on the Side?”

What a great question. Simply asking the question implies so much. If I say that I am a Sage on the Stage, immediately I might be considered a micromanager. A power hungry control freak of a teacher who needs his/her students to act only on command. Or even worse, I might be seen as a showoff whose main goal in teaching is to hear ones’ own voice.

As I sat in the interview room, it seemed the more politically correct answer would be the Guide on the Side. “Guide” doesn’t seem like such a loaded word as “Sage”. A guide leads the way. A guide points out facts. Guides know what pitfalls to avoid.

I had to make a snap answer. It’s been almost two decades, and I still think about my response. I expected that in time, I would make revisions to my answer. Surprisingly, I feel still feel good about the response I gave.

Basically, I believe that there are times when a teacher needs to be the Sage on the Stage and times when the teacher needs to get out of the way and be a guide on the side. Additionally, I’ve seen very effective teachers who can work a class, create amazing discussions, and help students construct learning all from the front of the class. By contrast, I’ve seen other teachers who spend very little time in front of a class, choosing to do most of their teaching in groups. Therefore, the situation and the personality of the teacher play a great role in the debate: Sage on the Stage or Guide on the Side.

Reflecting on the question “Sage” or “Guide” is not a bad idea. My philosophy in teaching, as well as life, has always been balance and moderation. There have been times when I’ve been stuck in the Sage or Guide roll for longer than is necessary. Just asking yourself the question might lead to some meaningful soul searching and deeper understanding about yourself as a person and a teacher.

The Merits and Demerits of the Sage on the Stage

There are definite merits to the Sage on the Stage approach. The teacher on his/her stage, managing the flow of information is definitely faster than the Guide on the Side. I’ve tried to incorporate “guide on the side” strategies for my grammar lessons, but I’ve found that direct instruction works best when introducing initial concepts. I may use “guide” strategies to aid mastery of the information. However, there are dozens of grammar and punctuation skills the students are required to learn in ten months which does not lend itself to the Guide on the Side philosophy.

This benefit is also the biggest argument against the Sage approach. As more and more demands are heaped upon teachers, it is easier to get through the curriculum with this method. However, besides being exhausting for the teacher to be on the stage all day, students require time to digest and process information. Sage techniques such as lecture and group discussion tend to favor the quick thinkers. These students do most of the critical thinking for the class. Consequently, the majority of the class misses out on this important skill.

The Merits and Demerits of the Guide on the Side

I recently began a sixth grade unit on the Hebrew’s exodus from Egypt like this:

Imaging that you were a guest in someone’s house. After a few weeks, you realized that you were doing all the chores in the house, your mom was cooking all of the meals, and your dad began to pay all of the bills. You were once a guest in this house. Now, what have you become?

The students had to read the material from their social studies books and explain how the Hebrews were like your family in the story. The connections they found were excellent. The follow up discussion continued to bear fruit as one group after another pointed out new ways to look at the analogy. I was a guide on the side, interjecting hints along the way.

The follow up to this was that the students had to create the second part of my “guest” analogy. They read about Moses and the Exodus and had to create an analogy about how they were able to move out of the house where they had become slaves.

The lesson was time consuming, but very effective. As effective as it was, I noticed that there were still things that I needed to teach the students directly. Many students, having no background knowledge on the topic, needed me to put this time in history into context. Once again, I was back to being the Sage on the Stage.

Final Thoughts

The moral of this story is that the art of teaching is knowing when to be the “guide” and when to be the “sage”. Once again I return to my original point: Simply asking yourself the question “What Kind of Teacher Am I?” is enough to help make you a better teacher. Being ever mindful of the balance between the two provides the opportunity for the self-reflection we all need.

Why Effective Teachers Have Minimal Classroom Problems

Effective classroom teachers tend to have strengths in classroom management efforts. Teachers who know how to manage their classrooms create an effective environment that is conducive to educating students. The challenge for some teachers is knowing how to organize their classrooms so they have minimal behavior problems. In college, teachers are generally taught how to put together a discipline plan for their classrooms; this plan is supposed to resolve any behavior problems in their classrooms. We know that effective classrooms require more, and teachers who are successful end up creating a classroom environment that is caring, thought-provoking, challenging, and exciting. These classrooms serve as examples of how effective teachers run their classes.

One strategy these teachers use begins on the first day of school. Veteran teachers have learned that how they start the year off will determine the success of their classes for the entire school year. Initiating classroom procedures on the first day of school helps the teachers acclimate students to a well-managed classroom immediately. The sooner students can begin positive routines, the greater the chance that the teacher will run an effective classroom for the rest of the year. Moreover, student achievement is directly related to effective classroom management.

It is imperative for teachers to implement classroom procedures to which students should adhere at all times. These procedures serve as expectations for the students and should include what happens at the beginning of class, how to quiet the class, what to do if students need help, what kind of movement is allowed by students, and what happens at the end of class. Every successful classroom should have these few basic procedures. Additional important procedures include what students should do when they need to get supplies, turn in papers, respond to the fire alarm, behave when dismissed from class, and what to do when they are tardy or absent.

To help teachers become organized, they should identify a location within the room where they post classroom procedures. They should also provide a location within the room to post rules, schedules, and the calendar. Organized teachers also have assignments for the day posted in the same location for consistency, and some teachers require students to come into class and immediately begin working on their “do-now” assignments. This helps students get involved immediately, which sets the tone for the class.

Teachers can get support for their classroom procedures by sending a letter of introduction home with students and including a copy of the classroom procedures for the parents to review. This is a great way to start developing that all-important relationship with parents. Additional information to send to parents includes an academic action plan or syllabus for the semester. Students have a tendency to behave better when the teacher has developed a relationship with their parents.

In addition to classroom procedures, successful teachers have well-managed classrooms that are student centered; they are conducive to students’ collaboration and enable students to feel as if they are a part of the class. Student-centered classrooms generally have special seating arrangements so classmates can share throughout the day. In addition, student-centered classrooms provide students with options for projects and assignments. Students in these classrooms spend a lot of time working on group assignments, which helps students become confident in working with people. Student-centered classrooms also bring students closer together, which should lead to greater student achievement and fewer classroom problems. This strategy helps teachers successfully organize their classrooms, which is an excellent classroom management technique.

To add to the success of these classrooms, teachers should incorporate activities that are meaningful and engaging for their students. This will keep students interested, which is critical in successful classrooms. Students need to feel that they are part of the class and that the material they are learning is important. When students demonstrate that they understand these lessons and are invited to provide feedback about them, it contributes to the success of the class. Teachers can enhance such success by encouraging students to participate and celebrating their successes whenever possible. Some teachers celebrate with verbal praise, some with written acknowledgment, and some by posting students’ works throughout the classroom.

This entire process promotes efforts to establish positive teacher-student relationships. When students form close relationships with their teachers, they feel a sense of belonging, which is a critical factor in effective classroom management. In summary, teachers who effectively manage their classrooms demonstrate a positive attitude, treat students fairly, are caring, have high expectations for students, know students’ needs, are organized and prepared, and provide meaningful and engaging lessons.