Ever since college I have found a noisy coffee shop to be a better learning environment than a quiet house. Something about the sound of milk frothing with a little piped in Musak is much more conducive to studying than a silent home office with various chores lingering outside the door.
Ever since we moved to Sacramento, I’ve spent a few nights a week at my mother-in-law’s house in Modesto to break up the commute and save a little on gas. Since I am in the midst of graduate school I have also found these afternoons to be the perfect time to get some homework completed. My favorite homework spot is the local Starbucks. In the back, near the bathrooms, is a corner with my name on it. The regulars save it for me. I plug in, put on my headphones, listen to Sirius online, and get cracking on the latest assignment. On a side note, if you are an AT&T home internet subscriber you now have free wireless access at Starbucks. I know – evil corporate coffee, but I go wherever the free Wifi is.
Last night, while hiding out in my corner I witnessed something pretty nifty -family homework time. A mom walked into the store with her two children. All three ordered a coffee beverage and then took a seat at the large table next to me. The son pulled out his math book and started working on his assignment. The daughter opened her backpack, retrieved an essay she was working on, and completed her rough draft. Meanwhile, mom worked on her own assignment – scrapbooking. For the next hour the family sat quietly with me, working on their homework without any TV, video games, chores, or life in general interrupting them.
I can’t tell you how nice this was to see. Lately, few of my students seem to get their occasionally assigned homework completed and I always here excuses such as:
“I didn’t have time”
“My mom made me do chores instead.”
“My soccer practice ran late.”
“I had music lessons.”
“I had to finish my (some other class’s assignment).”
“(Some TV show) was on.”
While all of these excuses may be legitimate all that I ever really here is, “Your assignment wasn’t really that important to me or my family.” Now, I realize there are teachers who send home tons of frivolous homework, but I always attempt to make sure my assignments have meaning and never last more than 30 minutes. I teach 8th grade. Whether they like it or not, next year all of my students will be moving on to high school and then many of them on to college. In both of these environments students must complete some amount of independent learning and reinforcement (aka homework). I’d like to give them at least a little exposure to this world before its too late for them to catch up. Last night it was nice to see that at least one mother understood the “method to my madness.”