MY Turn to Whine…

So, I met with my boss briefly yesterday to discuss the implications of my hybrid class’ performance this past week. I spoke with Joe about the fact that my expectations are very clear and were explained in the first day of class. I told him that I’d spoken the instructions for the homework, wrote the assignment out on the board AND followed up with an email. Then I told him that only one student out of 23 had completed the assignment as I gave it, eleven did parts of the assignment but didn’t complete all the work, and nine did nothing at all.

His suggestion was two-fold: first, he wanted me to compose an email to him reiterating everything we spoke about in our little meeting. He plans to add his own observations of working with culinary students in hybrid courses and forward that on to the head chef in the culinary school. He also wants me to compose an email to the students, expressing my concern for their not having completed the work and offering to accept the assignments, with a penalty, from the students who didn’t do the work.

I have no problem whatsoever with the first part of his request – as a matter of fact, I went home yesterday afternoon and wrote the email, just like he asked. When I saw him this morning at a meeting, I gave him a copy of my current grade book for the class, so he can see which students did what, and offered to give him copies of the handouts that I asked the students to write about so he can see that what I’m asking of them is not unreasonable. What I didn’t get a chance to do, though, was to tell him that I’m not at all comfortable with offering to go back on my stated policy of not accepting late work.

I made a big deal in the first class of making sure that each student understands that I don’t screw around with deadlines. A due date is a due date. Out in the real world, when your boss asks you for a report by Tuesday, she’s not going to be happy when you hand it to her on Thursday – or not at all – regardless of what kind of excuse you have. Since one of the biggest stated purposes of the school is to give our students good, solid life experience, I don’t think that it serves my students – or my position as their teacher – to go back on my policies right out of the gate.

I’m working on composing an email to my boss to tell him that I’m not comfortable with his suggestion, and to suggest an alternate tack – perhaps offering the noncompliant students an opportunity to make up some missing work around mid-term. I don’t feel that it’s going to help me reach my students any better by undermining my authority before we’ve even met for our second class. If have have the guts to hit “send” (and the more I think about it, the more itchy my “send” finger is getting), I’ll let you know what comes of it.

***Edited to include***

I hit “send” to this.  I mean it to sound insistent, but hope it doesn’t come off  TOO forceful:

Dear Joe:

When we met yesterday, you suggested to me that I should offer to accept late work – with a penalty – from students who failed to meet the deadline I imposed.  While I understand that this would certainly work out to the students’ liking, I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with the tactic.

I stated my homework policy very clearly during the first class and made certain that every student understood what was expected.  The students who were in my Effective Communication class in the fall were already familiar with the policy and were able to assure their classmates that, yes, that’s how it was last term, too.  I don’t feel that my policies are at all unreasonable, and I think it’s important for my students to reach the bar that I set for them.

My goal is to be firm AND consistent, and I’m afraid that going back on my policy before our second class meeting will set a precedent from which I’ll not be able to recover.  I really think that offering to take late work this early in the term is only going to teach the students that, if enough of them don’t comply, I’ll be forced to change my rules to accommodate them.  I’m not really eager to do that, especially considering that a composition class requires a lot of my time and energy away from the classroom: I would prefer to have all the work to grade at once rather than have to keep track of who gave me what and when.  I foresee my grade book becoming a chaotic mess and students accusing me of losing work they claim they handed in.

My suggestion is this: I hold them to the deadline that I set for them now.  They earn the zeros for the work they didn’t do and learn that I’m serious about due dates.  Later in the term, though, I quietly offer extra-credit work – with another firm due date – so that the students who are already behind have an opportunity to bring their grades up by mid-term progress reports.

Please think about this as an option and let me know if you approve.  I’m worried about losing what little credibility I feel I have in that class as it is, and really do think that this is my best option.  While I want my students to succeed, I’m sure that lowing my standards is not the way to achieve that.


-Mrs. Chili
(think I’ll keep my job…?)



Filed under General Griping, Teaching

3 responses to “MY Turn to Whine…

  1. Don’t think your job’s on the line. Though, if it were, I still think you’re right. Deadline’s a deadline. The one thing you have absolute control over is your credibility. If you lose that, it’s over. Period.

    Stick to your guns, babe.

  2. I’m with Grammar Snob on this – Stick to your guns, and bring out the big ones if you feel you have to. They have to learn sometime that life doesn’t always offer do-overs, and why not now?

  3. You present a viable, workable and appropriate solution to the problem. It keeps your policy consistent, but also allows you the flexibility to help students you feel deserve the support without jeopardizing the evenhandedness of your policy. Whether Joe accepts it or not, I think you did right here.

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