Those of us who have been teaching for many years know that even with late penalties, we still consistently receive late work from a subset of our students each term. If our goal is to build student capacity in this area, a consequence or a punishment is not necessarily what will help them as they work to build new habits. Is there a way to address late work that could be more effective at building the underlying skills to prevent lateness in the future?
In my classes, there's a process. Students must communicate at least 24 hours in advance of the deadline to request a 24 hour extension. I tell them at the beginning of the course that they may have one extension “free of charge” - they don't need to create the perfect excuse, but may just let me know that they need a little more time. If however, they require a second extension or time beyond 24 hours, they must sit down with me for a face to face conversation and we’ll create a plan for overcoming whatever obstacle they’ve encountered. It might include an assigned study hall, or a meeting with the writing studio, or maybe just helping them look at their schedule for the next few days and create a little more balance. It’s an opportunity to open a dialogue, and learn more about that student and what they’re juggling in their lives. Whatever the reason for the extension, it's clear to me that a second request indicates a student who could use some targeted support in navigating deadlines.
What this approach does is twofold. Knowing that one extension will be granted without any need for evidence or conversation gives students permission to be human. In a world where we expect perfection from young people in so many areas of their life, the simple grace of allowing an assignment a little bit more time to come in lets students be people. The subsequent conversation, if necessary, lets us surface the reason for the late work. Does the student need help with the assignment? Structure in their work time? Guidance in navigating multiple priorities? A more personalized approach to late work centers the student and their process, and creates even more opportunities for growth.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)