I know we talk about putting students first and our goals always include working to improve the lives of our students but how much do we take that message to heart? I would hope the answer would be always but I know that being human we sometimes put our own needs and interests first. I am as guilty of this as anyone and part of my reflection time is spent looking at how I can work on this. I want to explore a couple of areas where we seem to put too much emphasis on our own thoughts and needs and we should be putting more focus on students.
I would go into a lot of detail here but the link above is brilliant and spells it out so clearly that I don’t think I should spend the time doing so.
After reading the article you just have to decide, where is your focus?
This is a topic I have been researching furiously for the past year and come to the conclusion that
While this is the harsh way to put it I feel it is necessary here. As I have interviewed teachers about homework policy almsot all teachers fall into three categories:
Those who don’t accept late work: This is the worst policy, yes the worst. The general rational here is that they are teaching students life lessons and life doesn’t accept late work. The problem here is that statement couldn’t be more false. You can make late payments on your mortgage, pay your taxes late, plumbers and the cable guys regularly come to jobs late, planes seem to take off late more often than not, and when is the last time you had a doctor’s appointment start on time? In all those cases you are dealing with adults, not children, who have much more control over their day than most children often do.
This philosophy also ignores the fact that things happen both within and outside of a student’s control. When it is beyond the student’s control and we don’t accept late work we become the problem. When we do accept the work we start to create problems for others who question why them and not me?
This video spells it out very well, as well as going into the other categories we will explore.
Those who accept late work but with a huge penalty, generally 50% penalty: Lets go back to the examples of when people are late with things and see if this is a fair punishment. What is the penalty for paying your taxes late, in most cases its 5% per month up to 25%. Mortgage late fee’s are generally 5-10% of the payment, so are payday loans. When your doctors appointment starts late or your plane takes off late you don’t get anything. Only homework receives such a huge penalty and this is a penalty on children. Yes, some students don’t do homework because they make bad decisions on how they spend their time. But by giving such a huge penalty you give them incentive to just not do the work, “why should I do the work if the best I can do is an F.” If I had a dollar for every time I heard this I would be much further ahead on my mortgage payment.
The rational for the 50% penalty is usually; it’s better than nothing or that is the way it’s always been. Both of these have no place in a modern day educational system. We know we need to be modernizing our educational system and we can start with a homework policy that works for students today, going with the way it has always been is continuing to walk in the wrong direction. The rational that it is better than nothing, I will leave this alone.
A final segment of teachers is in a much better position to help students when it comes to homework; they either accept late work for full or almost full credit or they have have a per day penalty that doesn’t start off too high. These are scenarios that are much more in line with real life.
We all know accepting late work adds to our workload, you get papers in at different times and you have a “rush” of them at midterms and the end of the grading period but if the homework you are getting is valuable “if” a student learns the material should be more important than “when” a student learns the material.
Lets work to update our practice to a student centered approach, even if it means more work for us. Because we are not here for ourselves but for the students. Please use the following links to help guide your philosophy: