"They work hard for me all day, they don't need to go home and do more homework," she said.
Being a kid has been a hard business even before the pandemic turned life as we know it upside down. Between juggling a daunting list of school projects, homework, extracurricular activities, and a social life, children barely get the time to be children. And now that social distancing and virtual learning have become the norm, they've been forced to somehow deal with all that even amid the stress and pressure of these uncertain times. This knowledge is exactly why Courtney White — a teacher at Alvarado High School in Alvarado, Texas — chooses not to assign homework to her students despite facing criticism from others for not doing so.
She explained her reasons behind not demanding anything more from her students than their time in class every day in a TikTok video that has now gone viral on social media. "I'm getting a lot of comments... and a lot of people coming at me, like other teachers, saying I'm not doing my job for not assigning homework," White says in the video. "But there's no proof that homework is going to make them better students in my class. I respect their time outside of class. They work hard for me all day, they don't need to go home and do more homework."
"Most of my students are high schoolers. They have jobs, they have FFA, they have sports, they're in practice, they're in band, they have other responsibilities outside of school," White continues. "Some of them are going home and taking care of their younger siblings because their parents are at work. Some of them just need to go home and sleep. Some of them have to go home and worry about how they're going to eat because there's no food at their house. So, if I also give them hours of homework, when do they have time to be kids? When do they have time to relax? Because when you get off of work, you want to go home and relax."
Speaking to Good Morning America about her unorthodox approach to teaching, White pointed out that "if they're not coming to my class, like emotionally in a good place, or they're ridiculously tired, or they have something going on outside of class, they're not going to be their best selves when they're in my class." She explained that she aims to take away "a small portion of the stress away from them by not assigning extra assignments," and "give them the little extra love that they need in class" so that she can reach them better. She added that this way, she can also teach them more than if they had to stay up all night to complete homework that she could easily help them with in class.
"The sillier I am, the more interested they are in the topics. I try to make it fun," White added. "My favorite part of teaching is connecting with students. I like to get to know them as a student in my classroom as well as what they do outside of my classroom just to build that personal relationship. So they feel comfortable and cared for while they are in my class." White, who has been teaching for four years, clarified that her students know if they don't take class seriously and finish work in class, it will go home with them. However, so far it hasn’t happened.
"I know homework can be essential for some classes, and you just can't get around not assigning it," said White. "So, I totally understand the point of homework. But for me personally, I just like to have a little more leniency and letting them know like, it's okay to be human and go home and sleep."