Monday, September 10, 2018

Is late work a big deal?

"Mr. Mazenko, I wrote my paper, but ...."

😊

It is inevitable each year on one assignment or another that a student will not have the work present in class in hard copy at the moment that it is "due." And, thus teachers are forced into dealing with the issue of "late work." Do you accept late work? For full credit? Do you knock off points or a letter grade? Is the penalty based on minutes or hours or days? Do you give kids that disappointed look? Do you publicly shame the kids for forgetting (or neglecting) their school work? Do you believe you have to teach them a lesson? Do you tell yourself it's for their own good?

Do you have an inflated and unreasonable sense of self worth regarding your class and assignments?

Each year I share with my students a little bit of advice whenever the first assignment and issue of late work arises. Drawing from a "life strategy" in Jay McGraw's funny little self-help book Life Strategies for Teens, I remind students that "There is no reality - only perception of it." It doesn't matter if you did it; it only matters if you can prove it. And veteran teachers have heard so many endless variations on the missing homework story - "My printer ran out of ink. My hard drive crashed. I left my backpack in the trunk (it's always the trunk) of my friend's car, and I can't get it back because his sister took the car back to college in Nebraska this weekend, and she can't get the paper and send it to me because she parked illegally and the car was towed and the lot is only open from Wednesday to Friday ....." Thus, teachers are naturally inclined, when they hear the words, "I did it, but ..." to reserve some doubt, immediately thinking, "No, you didn't."  And, it really doesn't matter if you did. Because not doing it and not having it are the same thing.

That said, I am pretty flexible when it comes to turning work in late. For, let's be realistic; we all forget things from time to time. I've forgotten to bring copies or my book. I see teachers running back to the office all the time. I've forgotten to bring documents or information to meetings. It happens. And, we can all do ourselves a favor by getting past the inclination to stare disappointedly at kids and shame them for very human mistakes. And, we should stop telling ourselves that we are teaching them very important lessons about personal responsibility because someday their bosses won't put up with such carelessness. Oh, please. There was a time when I was a bit more rigid about these things. And I certainly am attuned to students taking advantage of situations and trying to get something for nothing. But only offering half-credit for completed work that is tardy in some ways - sometimes by only an hour or two - is nonsense. That's not what grades are meant to assess.

As I've matured in the field of education and parenting, and I've begun "Rethinking Homework," and as I've thought a lot about "The Case Against Zero," I have also begun to reconsider late work.

Give a kid a break sometime.

No comments: