… and hows that working for you?

I met a teacher today and our philosophies on education seemed to be very different. She has spent years in the field and her experience says something, but i disagree with  the teaching decsions she makes, although I have a lack of experience. She does not believe in penalties for late assignments. She had valid reasoning, saying that it wouldn’t change the amount of late assignments and that decreasing the marks could hurt the child’s self esteem and they will eventually not hand in anything anyways. I understand this point of view, but I am not convinced that it is working for her. She stated that she is one month into the semester and there is over 40 names on the board, each name reflects a late assignment and many children have their name on the board multiple times. Dr. Phil would ask “…and how’s that working for you?”

As a future high school teacher I believe that it is important that teenagers are prepared for their next step in life. For many that is university, tech school or entering the work force. Students should be aware that there is consequences to their actions in real life. Post secondary and the work force waits for no one. If you don’t hand in an assignment when it is due you don’t get any marks for it. Students need to understand that when they don’t follow deadlines they don’t get the credit.

Do you think this teacher is rewarding “bad” behaviour? Or am I too tough?


13 responses to “… and hows that working for you?

  1. What a debate!
    I completely see where both of you are coming from. On one side as a teacher we have the obligation to asses students learning. Progress can be monitored via grade and assignments. As students it is there job to complete there work and as a teacher it is very frustrating and difficult to monitor improvement if assignments are consistently late.

    On the other hand, I do believe that there are some students that do really struggle with getting work done and for some students the consequences put on late assignments might not effect them as much. I have even observed some students that might just stop caring about even doing the assignment because ” I am going to loose marks any way”, this is especially real for the students who might already be struggling I think.

    In my middle years classroom that I interned in I did not give penalty for late assignments. Although I did give constant reminders of when assignments were suppose to be handed in ( both verbally, and written down in different boards in the class) .
    I also gave a mark out of three for work being on time. This gave acknowledgement for the students that got it in on time, and gave the students who didn’t something to strive for ( as those easy marks really do add up). By the middle of october only a few students would hand things in late.

    Highschool is a totally different scenario though! I think it is all about getting to know your class and figuring out what works for you and for them, and setting up a consistent system and sticking to it ( if it be names on the board or late marks ect).

  2. I am going to have to go with Emily on the fact that it is whatever works best for you. In the elementary school that I volunteered in the children did not get docked marks for late assignments but they also had ‘corner jar’. Every time they finished a page of something, the teacher would cut the corner, mark their initials and put it in the jar. At the end up the week, the teacher pulled 5 corners and every kid with a corner got to pick a prize. I seen that children really wanted to get assignments done because then they had a greater chance at getting a prize come Friday. But, on the other hand, I agree with you that there definitely is a time and a place for on time assignments. It teaches children how to be responsible and learn that time is extremely important.
    We are currently learning about ‘social constructions’ on students and about how we force them to have the assignments in on time. Many people feel as if there should be no penalty — but what happens if you show up for work late? What happens if you need to get a certain amount of things done for work, but you decide you just don’t need to because time isn’t important? There will be penalties. I think that is very important for children to come out of highschool prepared for the real world — so no, you are not being too tough.

  3. I have done both systems, but the simple question I ask is “Do we as professionals get docked pay when we complete something late?”. Or as adults, do we realize that life happens, and sometimes deadlines cannot be met? Should we treat our students differently?

    Secondly, might we not ask why the student is constantly handing in late assignments? Do they need to extra time? Should they be punished?

  4. Thanks for your comments everybody.

    @Tom Whyte- I did not clearly dictate that I understand that there are special circumstances for every student. I just went to school with too many people that took advantage of the system.
    I think there is something to be said about having open communication with your students that if they are struggling that accommodations are made. I wouldn’t want to be unreasonable.

  5. I think back to work of Ken O’Connor and Douglas Reeves around assessment practices and can’t help to think “what is it that we are assessing?”. Is the mark an evaluation of their understanding of the concept or connected learner outcome or is it reflective of their work ethic and punctuality? My thoughts would be absolutely have consequences for not turning in assignments (or turning them in late)…but not through the awarding (or docking) of marks. I like DuFour’s comment (and I’m paraphrasing) – the punishment for not doing the work is doing the work! There are a lot of consequences we can put in place (after school sessions, Saturday school, not awarding credits until assignments are completed, etc.) that states (with an iron fist, in some cases) that there is no excuse for not completing work and there are penalties but we should really work to ensure that the “mark” is truly a reflection of the student’s understanding/demonstration of the learner outcomes. I would be curious to know what high schools who have adopted this kind of mindset are doing to address late/incomplete student work without penalizing through marks.

    Great reflections on a complex issue! Thanks for the post Randi!

  6. I think of late penalties like cigarette taxes…they seem like a good idea, but it’s a punishment pretending to be a motivator and we know that sticks don’t really work. What they do is end up hurting the ones that need more help from us. A penalty just says “well, I don’t care the reason why it’s late…it’s just late.” I try to make my classrooms like real life and we know that in real life stuff happens. Things go wrong. And most of the time, bosses are kind and understanding if it doesn’t happen all the time. Trust me, I was a newspaper reporter and even we could miss a deadline and not lose our jobs.

    If I have a student that has a problem with turning any assignment in on time, I try to look at his/her organization. Maybe I need to help with project planning, setting more explicit deadlines, checking in at home, looking at whether this student has SEN accommodations, etc. All of this depends on the age of the student and the assignment, of course, but I think these can be more effective than just arbitrarily setting a point-loss value for lateness.

    Not to mention that as a teacher your job is to assess learning and removing points for lateness is just going to skew your assessment.

    This is a complicated issue. And while I would never list the names of late students on the board, I want to side with not penalizing lateness. Maybe this is because I’m a procrastinator in recovery, but I have learned over the years that my procrastination wasn’t a result of laziness it was out of fear and uncertainty. I needed more help and guidance, but wasn’t sure how to get it from my teachers. I’m trying to be that kind of teacher that hones in on the ones that need more help from me, especially when it comes to planning, organization and meeting deadlines.

  7. I greatly appreciate my son’s 9th grade Geometry teacher. She very reasonably allows students to turn in work throughout the unit they are focusing on…. but, when it’s over, it’s over. This gives them a reasonable period to learn to manage the work load and yet still has a hard stop date. I know he finds it really helpful when balancing other class work, and it seems to be very relevant to understanding real-world time management.

  8. In real life most people do not get penalized for not having their work done on time. There is rarely a case when someone says “if you don’t have this thing done by friday, you get less money”. It’s either, you get paid per hour of work, or you get paid per job no matter how long it takes you.

    But I think this is all moot. One of the major points of education is …. education. When you give someone a 0 for an assignment you are hoping they will learn that they need to do things on time. However, this is at the peril of the actual knowledge you were assessing them on.

    Picture this, a student takes a class and learns everything in great detail, but fails to complete some assignments. Their end grade is a 75%, but in reality the know 100% of the material. The final grade is not a valid representation of their knowledge in the class, it is a representation of their assignment punctuality.

    Long story short, the best thing to do is to motivate students to want to do the work by making really interesting assignments. Barring that, I believe a decent motivator is to still require a student to do an assignment, even if it is late. That way they learn that even if they don’t get the work done on time, they still have to do it.

  9. I teach eighth grade and I do not take off points for late assignments either. I have a couple reasons. The first is that I believe a student’s grade should be a reflection of the work they do as well as how well they accomish the outcome. Penalties for being late do not reflect this. There is a place where I can report on organization as well as competing tasks on time and there I am very honest. I also feel there are two very important things to remember. Students are not adults. We have to give them opportunities to learn and grow which to me implies opportunities to comets work. My students get an email home when something is late or missing. This is a lot of work on my part but this is the step that I feel best prepares students to get organized- their parents anger can. E great motivation. Lastly, the reality is that in the so-called real world we do ask for and get extensions so why not do this in the classroom?

  10. What are you really assessing? Student knowledge? Or their ability to hand in assignments on time?

  11. Thanks for the comments everybody! These are things that I have never thought of. I completely agree that marks should be a reflection of the work that they do.
    You all have given me much to think about. Thanks for your time.

  12. I was a firm believer in late marks until I went to a conference where (and I always mess his name) Ken O’Connor talked about assessment that works for students. He was great. I don’t believe late marks should be taken off but there has to be a more proactive way of getting assignments than writing names on the board (which, by the way, seems like a way to blow self esteem, too). Involving parents/guardians. Letting the students choose due dates ( within guidelines). I just can’t believe late marks are the only way to motivate students.

  13. I agree with Sarah – I am not a strong follower of punishing late assignments. However, putting children’s names on a board is nothing else, in my opinion, than punishing them and in an even more medieval way. The stocks come to my mind. I would rather point additionally those who give the assignments before time.

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