Huh! I checked back in the archives, and it seems that I’ve not written about my pretty pink paper policy yet. I wonder how THAT happened!
Okay, get ready to flash back about four years. I’m working on my internship experience (ironically, at the high school I attended and under the guidance of the woman who was my biggest inspiration for wanting to become an English teacher, but that’s another story). We were working several classes, but my pretty paper policy was inspired by an experience I had with a senior in the AP Language and Composition class (I had this kid…).
Let’s call him Chet. Chet was a wise-ass. Chet was always right. Chet knew more than the teachers (even the ones with Ph.D.s in writing instruction, by the way). Chet was a royal pain in the ass.
Let’s just say that Chet was not my favorite student, even BEFORE the proverbial shit hit the fan.
Chet failed to turn in a piece of writing. A fairly important piece of writing that constituted a significant portion of his grade.
Chet baldly accused ME of losing this piece of writing.
It didn’t matter that Chet was unable to reproduce the piece (most kids would have just gone back to their computer and hit “print” again. No harm, no foul. Chet made some bullshit claim about a hard drive failure). Chet had decided that I was an easy target – the intern is the equivalent of the red-shirted, no-name actors on the original Star Trek; you know, the ones who catch a phaser gun blast right between the eyes and never come back from away missions alive?
(edited to include this picture; I just had to go back and include it. I think it’s a riot that I found this the day after I wrote this post….)
The upshot was that Chet simply didn’t do the work, but he wasn’t going to go down for it; he was going to blame it on me.
Dear Readers, I bought it. I looked EVERYWHERE for this paper. I turned my house upside down. I looked in every rooom in the school I’d even WALKED past. I practically stripped my car. I could not find this paper because, well, you know…
The incident almost made it all the way to the dean before the kid finally confessed – after we threatened to call his parents in on the fun - that he didn’t do the writing in the first place (don’t even get me STARTED on the depth of dumbassery this kid demonstrated; in the days that we were busy turning my life inside out looking for this fucking essay, he could easily have written the paper and planted it somewhere in the classroom).
I walked out of the dean’s office swearing that I would NEVER AGAIN be used like that.
From that point on, I have instituted what I call my “pretty paper policy.” I went to the office supply store and bought a ream of neon-colored paper (I started with purple because I like the alliteration, then switched to pink when the purple ran out. Think about that for a minute…that’s a LOT of purple paper….).
The idea is that when a homework assignment or essay is due, EVERYONE must hand me SOMETHING; either the assignment or a piece of pretty paper with the student’s name, the date, and the missing assignment’s title written on it. That way, when the student gets a zero for work he or she didn’t do, they can’t tell me that I lost it when I can produce a piece of day-glo paper with their own handwritten confession on it.
I use the pretty paper policy in every class I teach, college and high school. The college kids never get their pink paper back; I don’t accept late work without prior agreement, so that pink paper stands for a zero on the kid’s score. The high school kids get to exchange their pink paper for the completed – albeit late – assignments. Well, they do until mid-semester, anyway. I wanted to give the kids a good half-semester to get used to me, my teaching style, and the kind of work I’m asking them to do. I’m doing away with the policy on November 9th. From then on, they get treated just like my college kids.
It’s a sad thing when a teacher needs to write receipts for missing work so s/he can cover the proverbial ass against unethical (lazy!) students, but it is what it is. While I’m not happy about having to use it, I’m glad that I do. I wonder how many Chets the policy has saved me from…