California Educator

September 2014

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Perspectives Point/Counterpoint NO I don't come to work late. I don't get behind in my lesson plans or my grading. I do all of that to the best of my ability. I have a good work ethic. I have the same expectations for students — to be on time. Allowing late homework doesn't help develop a good work habit, and it can turn students into procrastinators. I think that when you let students turn work in late, you are indicating that the work itself has little value or attachment to what you are teaching at the time. There is no sense of urgency or importance. I don't assign much homework, so the homework that I assign is important and supports what they are learning right then. Late work also allows students to be behind in what they are expected to learn. That can create an atmosphere where teaching becomes difficult because students don't know what they need to know that day in order to learn that lesson. It can throw off lessons and test dates at best and create discipline prob- lems at worst. Because I don't allow students to turn in late work, almost all of my students do their home- work when it is assigned and turn it in on time. They know the expectation, and they meet it. There are, of course, exceptions. A severe illness, a family tragedy, or something of that magnitude. Exceptions have to be truly that — exceptions and a rare occurrence. Other than that, students should be able to avoid it by being organized and using a planner. Being on time is an important life skill and something that is taught through holding stu- dents to a standard that you set. I have found that students will work hard to meet standards, but will also work very little if they know that is acceptable. JULIA KNOFF, San Diego Education Association, teaches U.S. histor y and AVID at Scripps Ranch High School. YES There are many reasons students may be chronically late with their assignments, but is it really worth it — as their mentor — to pun- ish them for completing their assignments? Aren't we all looking for student understand- ing and participation? Classwork and homework should reinforce the subject material. Not every student is able to process information within a given timeline. I'd rather students turn in late work and use it as a "teachable moment" to discuss what might happen if they're late with their assigned duties at a future job, rather than create a bruised ego about homework or classwork. If students complete and turn homework in late, knowing they get partial credit, it's a choice they are making. And it's still participation. Teacher flexibility should be viewed as a strength — not a weakness. There are things going on in our students' lives that we may not always know about. If you are flexible and let students know what your policy is (or how much you're willing to compromise) students are more apt to do their assigned work. It's the teachers with the ego and the focus of dead- lines that are the ones who lose their audience and in the end are much more frustrated with the profession. My teachers had a clear policy about late work: Students received a certain amount of credit, but it was better than falling behind or not producing any work at all. It helped me as a student know that I had the opportunity to turn in late work if I needed to. When I didn't feel pressured or guilty about turning in late assignments, it helped make school less overwhelming. I don't believe it negatively affected my testing or motivation. I was a diligent student, but sometimes we all need a couple of extra days to finish a task. VERONICA POLK, Contra Costa County Schools Education Association, is a special education teacher. Is it more important to enforce deadlines and teach students personal responsibility? Or is flexibility useful for some students who need extra time? How educators handle late assignments seems to be all over the map. Some give students a zero, others dock a few points or drop an entire grade level for each day of lateness, while others give students full credit for the work. We asked two CTA members to address this important issue. And we'd like to note appreciatively that both turned in their opinions on time. Should teachers allow students to turn in late assignments? 22

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