My philosophy has always been, “no harm, no foul.” I have never been a believer in making up false consequences just to prove a point or teach a lesson. One sterling example of this philosophy in practice has been late work. Generally, if the student turns it in before I have a chance to get the assignment in the grade book, I don’t take points off. Further, I have an amnesty day toward the end of each quarter where I will give up to full credit depending on how late the assignment is. This is not because I’m nice. It’s so that I don’t have to spend valuable brain cells figuring out how many points to take off late work. (Possibly a manifestation of my math phobia.) On my list of priorities, punishing students for turning in work a week or three late doesn’t even make the top ten.
Now, before all you school-age masterminds start indexing feeder patterns to figure out how you can land in my English class, let me say this; it has occurred to me recently that my attitude may actually be, despite all appearances to the contrary, harmful to my students.
The purpose of school, especially high school, is to prepare students for the next stage of their journey. Whether this includes college or the military or gainful employment, or a combination of the three makes no difference. Part of my job is to teach them what the world will expect of them. If I don’t do that, I have failed them.
If one of my students fails to complete a prospectus on time, she may lose a client and her job on the same day. An administrative assistant who fails to book his boss’s flight on time may find himself sitting on the curb with a tidy little good-bye box next to him. Pleading for another chance might work once, but certainly not more than that and it often takes more than one lesson to teach accountability.
The truth is, I am inclined to be forgiving of tardiness in its multiple, nefarious forms. My mantra is generally, “DStSS*,” but I am starting to rethink that philosophy, at least in part. Why? Because, like most teachers, I genuinely care about my student’s future success and I am constantly seeking ways to equip them for it. Demonstrating that irresponsibility and procrastination are useful life skills will not be helpful to them.
What lessons did you learn in school that are still with you today?
*”Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”