As I search for a metaphor to make sense of my life in these times, I find I don’t need to look further than my immediate surroundings. As I write this, my house is being painted. I am surrounded by the various material things I have acquired over the many decades of my life; they have tumbled out of closets and shelves to allow for the walls to receive their fresh coat of colour. There is music playing somewhere, interrupted occasionally by the screech of a ladder being dragged across the floor. Not too far away, there are loud sounds of machinery as my neighbour’s house is being renovated. I am settled into a small corner with my laptop trying to work.
The material confusion, the constant din of a world remaking itself, is reflected in my mind as I try to clear a path for words, for sentences that make sense. This is life, I think, the search for clarity amidst the chaos of the everyday – noise, dust, clutter and the hundred and one things that demand our attention. We have to draw a circle around ourselves and create our own silences if anything is to be accomplished within a given time. There is something to be gained by letting that chaos in from time to time, in the manner of a reality check, but there is also a need to step away from it and just do what one needs to do, to get on with one’s life.
That was something of a long digression but it has something to do with how we think about stories at Teacher Plus. Every few months when we go into a huddle to figure out what we will focus on in the coming issues, we’re pulled in many different directions. There is so much going on in the world of education, in our teaching and learning lives, and all of it happens within the broader, multiple dynamics of the world, our society, and of course, our families. We recognize the many topics we could cover, and then someone will say, “But haven’t we done that before?” We quickly check back issues to find that indeed, we have done something of the sort. But some topics never achieve closure, others have many more facets that can be explored, and yet others change over time, with new developments in education policy, infrastructure and technology and new understandings of human behaviour and psychology. And of course, culture and society keep changing – two years ago, who would’ve thought that “online” would become a way of life?
So we chose to take a[nother] close look at homework and assignments. What should they be? How should they be evaluated? What learning can we hope to achieve from them? What’s the reality of the contexts within which students are doing their homework or managing their assignments (hence the musings above)? How can we think of assignments as creative and self-directed learning opportunities? As always, our brilliant contributors came up with some valuable insights – and we hope our readers find them both informative and applicable.