It never fails. As the semester draws to a close, and the opportunities to earn additional points float away (opportunities that seemed so far away even 3 weeks ago). And with this, I often get some students in my office asking for exceptions to the no-late-work policy.
“But I need these points.”
“You don’t understand… I’ve had a lot on my plate.”
“I’m taking a full-time load and working.”
“I have other classes outside of yours.”
“I have a life outside of school.”
It’s true. All of the above are absolutely valid reasons that people may not get work completed on time. Here’s the deal: All of those were true for me, as well, when I was a student. It was and remains true for nearly every student on our campus.
This isn’t a post about complaining; far from it. Rather, it’s a post about taking responsibility, about being willing to stand up and take ownership of the decisions we make daily. Even as an instructor, I have decisions to make. I can choose to finish grading things tonight, or I can wait and do it tomorrow… but if I choose to wait, students will ask me if I have it graded yet, and the questions will not stop being asked until they have satisfaction.
Learners do have a lot of responsibilities, way more than a lot of people recognize. Commuter students, especially, have to manage time even more effectively. As an academic adviser, one of my first questions when students ask me for a particular schedule or course load is “Are you SURE you can handle this?” Working full time, as many students do, means sometimes making a choice between paying employment and homework. It means sometimes having to say no to points, in order to earn cash (or vice versa). Many students do not consider these real choices that must be made.
In a book I’m going to be using in a new course next semester, the author begins with a simple premise: every day, we make choices. Every day, we have points that force us to make a decision, and when we make those decisions, we must live with the consequences. Sometimes, they are good (that extra 10 minutes of studying means we definitely better understand the concept that was worth half the test grade). Other times, it’s not so good (I forgot to tell my spouse/partner/significant other that I ran into my ex last night at the grocery store, and she/he found out through her/his best friend this morning…). Occasionally, the consequences are moot. I chose to have French bread instead of Italian bread (and because it’s bread, it’s delightful, either way).
All I’m asking here is that we all consider the consequences of our choices. Before we blame someone else, before we make excuses, before we even beg for mercy, we must take account of our responsibility.
For any educator friends out there who stumble upon this one, I am curious: what’s your late work policy?