Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Worst Part of Turning in Grades

Grades were due at 2pm on Monday. The previous Thursday night I was driving out of town to go to a math conference and would be out Friday. I warned the kids and told them that the LATEST they could turn in grades would be 4:16 on Thursday afternoon. I made a joke of it to hammer it home.

"Do not run after my car waving your homework at 4:30"
"Do not slip your work under my door after 4:16 and expect me to get it"
"Do not secretly slip it in my mailbox"
"Do not come to my house, please, this weekend to turn things in."

Mostly it went okay. But then there's always the special cases that I make allowances for without telling anyone else. One student's dad had recently died and she was having a rough time of it. She was also out the end of last week for FFA. She talked to me before Thursday, and I said that she could turn in late work AND work that was way past acceptable to turn in.

One student is struggling socially and familially and scholastically and has been in tears and has a hard time keeping it together. I went to school Monday and found some test corrections on my desk from him. I accepted them. He still didn't pass, but this brought his grade up.

Then there's the students that beg and plead and such after the fact and after they have slacked off ALL 6 weeks (which is 7 weeks this time, but who's counting).

Student #1. Monday morning he shows up. "I see my grades a 50%. Is there anything I can do?". Hmmmm, well, you turned in no work all 6 weeks, you barely did your late work. You didn't take advantage of tutoring or retests or test corrections. "No, there's nothing you can do. The time has passed." ... "Please, please, please, PLEASE. I'll do anything. I'll do quadruple work, I'll turn it in before 2pm (due time), I'll, I'll, I'll." .... "NO!". I mean, quite honestly, it's nothing to me if he turned in more late work. I had time to put it in. But I made the decision that that would not be beneficial to him. What would he have learned in that case. "Oh, I can always slack off and then be super polite and hang dog faced and teachers will let it slide at the end." Still it put a sour taste in my mouth and I felt horrible for the day, but ultimately I know it was the right decision.

Student #2 Basically the same story as student #1, except he came in AFTER school AFTER grades were turned in. "IS there ANYthing I can do? I need to stay eligible for band.". ... NO. This one had the extra added effect of super politeness, "yes ma'am, no ma'am, thank you ma'am", and the dipped head of sorrow. He wouldn't leave. He kept waiting around looking all glum waiting for me to change my mind. No, no, no. It may seem nicer to give in now, but it's not useful to you in the long run.

Argh. Hard decisions. I feel like "mean teacher", but I have to remember that I'm trying to do what's ultimately best for each kid.


  1. Anonymous2:46 PM

    Well, it's a little like parenting. I tell my kids, if they don't think I'm mean, then I must not be doing my job!

  2. Anonymous7:56 PM

    I have a motto that I pull out in situations like these: "I treat everybody fairly. That doesn't always mean equally."

    Student #1 and #2 have been treated fairly. It is the consequence of their (in)action. If they were really concerned about being band-eligible or whatever, then they would have made sure to get their late work in on time (?)!

    More than teaching a subject, we are teaching young adults. Now, let's hope they've learned something from this experience.

  3. Anonymous8:37 PM

    I'm also reminded of a former student who always tried to pull the last minute stuff. After he graduated, one of his friends came to visit, and said that so-and-so mentioned, "Ms. Cookie never let me get away with it, and I sweet talked her and everything!"

    Ms. Cookie

  4. Anonymous11:42 PM

    Atta girl! The Real World doesn't pay off on a good try... consequences are there for a reason.

  5. If only we could play the guilt hand as well as they do, we'd be able to convince them to turn their work in much earlier!

    Geez. I hate it when they do that!

  6. I was always amazed when my 5th graders did that, and they're 11. I have argued with parents who insisted I take their work after the marking period ended.

    You are right. It would be easier to take the work, but definitely not better for your student.

    P.S. I am reminded of the teacher I worked with who had a parent angry over the grade she "gave" their child. She turned the report card around and said, "Write in the grade you want then." The parent backpedaled and said that wasn't what she meant. My friend then politely pointed out that she didn't "give" grades. Her students "earned" them. One of my favorite teaching stories.