It’s Saturday, and I’m at home enjoying some cinnamon tea, enjoying a leisurely day. I’m planning on doing some baking later and cooking up some good vegetables. My daughter has disappeared into her room for some creative play and then has laid out some materials for painting. It’s quiet and cool inside and relaxing.
Meanwhile, though, many 5th grade students at my school are at school working on their PYP Exhibition “project.” Many were there yesterday, our first day of the weekend, as well. Some came in over the mid-term break to work with their group facilitator on their Exhibition. Somehow, working on their Exhibition with a group at school on the weekend and after school has become a norm at our school, and it doesn’t make any sense.
I listened to one teacher berate one of her students at 4:30 p.m. after school on the last day of the week for not focusing and getting his work done (school ends at 3 p.m.) Other teachers have used threats, telling students they will have to come all day both weekend days unless they get their work done.
I’ve refused to bring my group in for the weekend of work. So has another teacher. My students, though, are complaining. We want to come in. Everyone else is. Another student in another group is dancing around excited, saying “I’ve got Saturday school.” It’s a bizarre twist of events, and I’m feeling really, really bad for the students.
I understand they get to see their friends on the weekend, which is often challenging in the city where we live. There aren’t a lot of weekend activities for children here, so coming to school seems exciting. However, I suggested students could go to each other’s houses if they really wanted to work on PYP Exhibition, and this hadn’t occurred to them. I had to insist to them that this should be fun.
Our administration has been applauding the teachers who have spent time on the weekend with their students, sending the message that the more work the better. I think they should be banning it.
The Effect of Homework
I compare forced Saturday school to homework, and everything points to how ineffective homework in elementary students really is.
In The Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn debunks the myth that homework “builds character.” He targets American’s beliefs that you can produce workers by “sheer force” and shows that what underlies the insistence on homework is a distrust of children and how they would fill their time.
A more recent article “Homework is wrecking our Kids,” in Salon, again negates the effect of homework in elementary school.
“There is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students…” the article begins.
It continues with research in multiple studies done that show no correlation between homework and academic success.
The Conclusion: PYP Exhibition and Weekend Work
After doing a quick survey of teachers around the world from Angola to Japan, it seems that Saturday PYP Exhibition “work” is not the norm, and it shouldn’t be. Based on research, this additional pressure on students to do “work,” when they should be taking time for balance with play and relaxation, is detrimental to students. It also seems like the antithesis to a culminating Exhibition journey that should show independence and a a well-rounded knowledge of learner profile, attitudes, knowledge, concepts and action.
PYP Exhibition should start early enough in the year and take time to unfold. Students should have time to play with ideas, explore and then move forward. The process should be emphasized and not the product. And when it’s crunch time, and the Exhibition presentation looms near, students should have managed their time well so they’re not cramming to get everything finished…
Teachers need to support the process and celebrate the journey and continue to allow these students to enjoy the Exhibition, without undue pressure to perform. Don’t you think so?