Imagine you have spent weeks working on a narrative piece for a magazine. You have gone through many stages, edits, and revisions. You are just about ready to submit, but you think you should probably save it and walk away for a day or two, and you will come back to it with fresh eyes to complete final revisions. Then, you wake up the morning after that submission was due by 11:59, and realize your mistake. What do you do? Call the editor and tell them you forgot and ask for an exception? Yell? Cry? Curse the memory gods?
You may or may not have guessed that this hypothetical scenario has just happened to me: 3,800 words all dressed up with nowhere to go.
While I would love to attempt all of the above, I know that none of those options are likely to solve anything. I missed the deadline: Period. I now have to live with the consequences of that. Instead of whining, crying, cursing, etc., I will reflect on the importance of deadlines in our classroom and my confusion with what good or harm different policies around late work really have on students.
Because of our adoption of Standards-Based-Grading, I am not allowed to penalize late work with a reduced score, because that would not be reflective of what the student knows. I understand, and can even appreciate parts of this philosophy. The pragmatism, though, I am not so sure about. Some things, as we know, are easier said than done. I know that students are preparing for their adult lives, and are not yet adults. I understand and agree that they should be shown a little grace, and a little mercy, and that everyone (clearly, even me) forgets sometimes, despite the best of intentions.
However, does that mean there should be no consequence, and they should have forever and ever to turn in their assignments, Amen?
Turning in work on time ensures optimal learning and understanding of a concept before moving on to the next. Learning in an English class is often sequential, and success depends on a more basic level understanding before moving on to the deeper intellectual challenges. My courses are thoughtfully designed upon this philosophy, and as such require engaged and productive participation in all aspects of the class to maximize learning. Not to mention, another part of my evaluation requires me to thoughtfully design lesson plans that are sequential in nature. I expect all work to be turned in on time. All late work negatively impacts my students’ learning, and ultimately, grades. Also, because I also teach a college level course, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least begin to prepare them for the reality of college, where late work and re-takes are very few and far between.
On the other hand, I would really love a bit of grace and mercy in my current situation. I know some students honestly forget sometimes, and will bring it in the next day or so, and I have often told them when they come to me that I will offer an exception to my late-work policy, (which used to mean a lower percentage) but just this once. I would love it if I could email the editor today and ask for an extension. The problem is that it looks (and is) very unprofessional, and I know the odds are not ever in my favor, and most likely I will have to find another audience for the narrative: perhaps even on this blog. But, I have learned an important lesson. Will I forget another deadline? Probably (I am a human, after all, fallible and imperfect), but not for a LONG time. We learn from failure and mistakes. When we suffer consequences, and have to feel the frustration and disappointment that comes from them, we learn lessons about the importance of staying organized, planning ahead, and following through.
So what lesson do we really want to teach?