Third-grade teacher Laura Afifi likes her students to be stress free. She knows she can’t control tensions at home, but one stress factor she can control is the amount of homework assigned to her students.
Afifi, a third-grade teacher at Colonel Howard Nichols Elementary School in east Bakersfield, assigns a little less homework to help students de-stress and spend more time acting their age.
“I feel like they need time to be kids too,” Afifi said.
Having folders full of homework packets with short deadlines can be straining for many students, she said.
Throughout her 19 years of teaching, Afifi has tried different homework methods. She started out assigning weekly homework packets, but stopped after noticing many of her students didn’t turn them in.
She needed to better prioritize her planning time, she said. Afifi spent too much time planning, checking and grading the packets, but many of her students weren’t turning them in.
Instead of packets, she now gives her students minimal homework that focuses on reading and book reports or special projects that have gotten more participation than the packets.
She sets reading goals and assigns a book report once a month. She also assigns projects quarterly and allows students to take home unfinished classwork.
Young students should spend their time being active, reading more and learning skills they need outside of a classroom, she said, instead of spending more time sitting and doing work.
“They’re sitting all day long in the classroom except for recess, and we’re asking a lot of them,” she said.
Students with less homework are less stressed, she said.
Afifi has heard stories of students in other classrooms crying because they felt so much pressure from homework overload.
“There’s a lot of stress during the day already because we have all of these expectations of them, and they’re sitting for such a long time that I really just want them to have some freedom,” Afifi said.
Although she is an advocate for less homework, she believes students should still have some work to do at home.
“I shouldn’t say ‘no homework never,’ it’s just I try to keep it as minimal as possible,” Afifi said.
Afifi is understanding when it comes to deadlines. She’s flexible with her students because she understands many families have busy schedules.
When it comes to in-class projects, Afifi does her best to prepare the assignment in advance, that way her students and their parents have ample time to prepare for the project. If some don’t, she provides the necessary materials.
However, having some home assignments is good because not everything can be done in the classroom, she said, especially if there are a lot of students.
So far, Afifi has not received any complaints from parents, the school or the district regarding her homework methods.
But for parents who want their kids to stay extra busy at home, Afifi is happy to point them to online resources they can use for their child.
She said, “If you need ideas, I can send you ideas.”
Editor’s note: Do you know someone who is worth profiling? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.