Lateness is okay

So, I am finishing up a semester, and as always, I have parents and students complaining about their grades.  Now, for the most part, I am happy with the school I’m at, and so this is not really a complaint about that–this is a long running complaint that just came to a head today because I had to give a kid a grade and now he’s back in my class, and frankly, he’s smarmy–he’s got his Mom snowed and I have to look at him for another six months.

So, when I can make my own late policies, it is usually this:  No late work accepted, except major assignments, like papers, which are then penalized 5-10 points a day.  Absences of course do not count, and there are always exceptions.  My current school, and the last few schools I’ve been at, have this policy:  Work can be turned in up to a certain point, usually about a week before the term is up, and no matter how late, it has to receive at least a 60%.

So, every time a quarter ends, I have kids turning in work that is 3 months old, and I have to accept it and give them a grade for it, and some, depending on their average, can pass–even though they’ve done nothing all term.  Now, I teach a college course, so I have higher standards for that course, and I was holding them to my original policy.  Unfortunately, I forgot to put it in writing (my bad), so I have to give them the grade.  (I’ve corrected that for this semester)

Here’s my problem with it.  I know that sometimes things happen, which is why I have always allowed for exceptions.  But, we are teaching entire generations of children that as long as it’s done, it doesn’t matter when it’s done.  We’ll still give you a grade.  It’s like the “every child gets a trophy” mentality.  I understand, in theory, that if you give students a zero every time they miss assignment, they may get to a point where they can never recover.  However, in my experience, if you give them the 0’s up front, 95% will step up and get it done, if you hold them accountable. (I saw this for the first 11 years of my teaching career)

If I don’t pay my mortgage, trust me, the phone calls come.  I paid my mortgage two days late once, and the phone calls started the 1st day.  I never made that mistake again.  If I don’t pay my car payment on time, I may wake up and my car is gone.  Reality doesn’t take exceptions.  It’s due when its due.  And for those that are going into college, they need to realize that deadlines are deadlines–professors will not wait five weeks for an assignment.

This is one of the many points that just irritates me so about being a teacher, and I can’t change it–no matter how much I may want to.  It’s a culture that has become acceptable, and if I try to do it differently, I become the scapegoat.   It makes me worry for the future, and it makes me tired trying to change the unchangeable.


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