Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
Photo courtesy of

Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Monday, October 17, 2011

Local elementary teacher banishes homework

This principal says no homework for students and more critical thinking in the classroom. Read on!

Published: Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gaithersburg Elementary students hit the books — and just the books
By Jen Bondeson
Gazette Staff Writer

Every Tuesday and Thursday this summer, Stephanie Brant loaded up her car, drove around Gaithersburg, knocked on doors, and gave her students handfuls of books.

The Gaithersburg Elementary School principal used her “bookmobile” to make sure the children had the tools they need to complete their only homework during the first part of this year — free reading.

By banning traditional homework, Brant said she hopes to inspire her teachers to give meaningful assignments and projects, and to inspire her students to become critical thinkers.

Brant is not familiar with any other schools that have implemented the model nor does she know of any studies that show reading is the most effective type of homework, but she said she knows how crucial reading is for building vocabulary, background knowledge and stamina.

She believes reading has a powerful impact on children.

“I want these kids to be intellectual learners,” said Brant, now in her second year as a principal.

Students in all grades are encouraged to read 30 minutes each night; parents are asked to read with younger children.

In some cases, students will be asked to reflect on what they read by posting an entry on the school’s internal blog site — an act Brant refers to as “glogging.”

As the year goes on, teachers will give other assignments that reflect or extend upon learning in the classroom, such as research or problem solving projects.

At Gaithersburg Elementary School last school year, Hispanic or Latino students and limited English proficient students failed to meet adequate yearly progress in reading on Maryland State Assessments; 43.1 percent of students at the school last year were enrolled in English for Speakers Other Languages.

Brant said the school’s diversity is not why she chose to implement her program — reading is important for all students, she said.

Meredith Shankle, the school’s PTA president, said she loves Brant’s approach.

“I really believe that reading is fundamental,” she said.

Shankle has two daughters, a second- and a third-grader, at the school, and they are excited about the new policy, she said. They were already reading at night. That activity now holds more importance.

Both of her children are really taking their reading to the next step this year, she said, although she is not sure if that has more to do with their ages or with the school’s new approach to reading.

Some parents who were accustomed to the after-school tradition of worksheets and homework packets were concerned at first, Brant said. She is working with individual families to address their concerns. She is also setting up a parent group that will meet periodically to discuss homework policies.

Cory Siansky, the school’s PTA secretary, applauds Brant for taking a new approach to homework, which needs to be meaningful, he said, but he does not believe reading is the best solution.

The policy does not fit the needs of students at all levels, Siansky said. Two of his three daughters attend the school this year. His kindergartner was looking forward to doing homework this year, as her older sister, who is in second grade, did last year.

Siansky gives them worksheets to fill out that he takes from textbooks his family owns — his wife is a teacher.

Reading advocate

Brant started as a first-grade teacher, where learning to read is key, and also worked as a reading recovery teacher for students not meeting benchmark levels.

Her passion for reading extends beyond her career — she is an avid reader herself.

Her son, Aidan, 5, and her daughter, Isabella, 2, read every night.

“In our home, reading is like brushing our teeth,” she said.

“It all goes back to being a life-long learner.”

Reading is always an excellent homework assignment, according to Betsy Brown, director of curriculum and instructor development at Montgomery County Public Schools.

The school system gives principals and teachers guidance that homework should be meaningful and be connected to what goes on in the classroom, Brown said.

“[Homework] really needs to invite kids to think and to think creatively, as well as critically,” she said.

Brown echos Brant’s motto — quality, not quantity.

Giving reading for homework is not a new strategy, Brown said, but it is an incredibly powerful one.

The school system does not keep track of what homework models principals are encouraging, so Brown does not know if other schools have the same strategy.

Brant wants her students to learn how to think critically, so they can become “21st century learners,” she said.

“I want to teach my kids to be individual thinkers,” she said. “I want things to be meaningful to them.”
© 2011 Post-Newsweek Media, Inc./Gazette.Net

No comments:

Post a Comment