The Life of Bon: WHAT WOULD YOU DO? ROUND 2!

Monday, March 25, 2013



It happens four times a year.

The dreaded end of quarter.  (For newbies around here I teach high school English for a living.  It is altogether the best and worst decision of my life.  Figure that one out for me!)

Oh the angst of the end of the quarter! The woe! The drama! The tears! It is five days of pure madness as kids I haven't seen in months flock in to try to make up the mountains of work they have been neglecting.  I start the day real sweet and by 3:00 I'm about ready to bit off the head of any kid who dares mutter, "Uh... Teacher..."  Students if you are out there somewhere reading this, I'm sorry!  I really am sorry!  It's not the real me lashing out, I promise!

I think what I hate most about end of quarter is that it puts me in really difficult situations.  There are no easy calls in teaching.  A lot of times I make the ultimate call in whether a kid passes or not.  Oftentimes they are students who struggle, who have difficult home lives, who need the extra help.  Do you let them hand in an extra assignment?  Do you make exceptions for them that you don't make for regular students?  Do you let them ignore deadlines that you shove down the throats of the rest of your students?  Do you teach them that the world will always make an exception for them or do you force them to fail and learn the hard truth?

And so, I have created day Round 2 of "What would you do?"  I was burned on this by mean commenters the first time I did it, but alas, I am ready to venture into the world of anonymous and nasty comments once again to see what you folks all think.  Would you be a good teacher?  Would you be merciful?  Would you be just?  How do you know what is right?


I received an email from the school counselor today asking me if I could let a student hand in extra work and give her a couple of weeks past the end of quarter to get stuff in.  She has an awful home life, abusive father, absent mother, etc.  The problem is she literally has a four percent in my class.  She has been to class maybe 3 days out of the quarter.  When I said this to the counselor she replied that the student is on a 504 (special accommodations because of needs) and is allowed extra time.  Hmmmm.  Now what?

A.  Allow the student to make up any work from the quarter.  It isn't her fault life dealt her a crappy hand.
B.  Allow the student to do enough work to get her to passing, but only to passing.
C.  Allow the student to fail the class.  She didn't attend class, she didn't do work for class, she doesn't "pass" the class.

MY ANSWER:  C.  I emailed the counselor back that the girl would fail because she is already months behind on many deadlines from the quarter that are too late to make up no matter what your 504 says.  The truth is I feel dishonest "passing" a kid like this.  I get that she "needs" it, but me saying she passed the class when I know she didn't is no different than her lying and saying she did an assignment when she knows she didn't.  She didn't learn the material, didn't read the books, didn't "pass."

I had a student who said her main writing project for Tuesdays with Morrie never got put in the computer.  We scoured the room and the assignment was nowhere to be found.  The assignment is worth 150 points makes up roughly 15% of her grade.  She hand did the project as it was a creative, hands on assignment. I would estimate that the assignment takes anywhere between 4-8 hours to do in its entirety. She has always been a good student for me, and never lied.  Do I excuse the assignment, or do I make her do it again?  I am very methodical in my grading and never take work home with me, so it couldn't have left the classroom.  The girl has also accused other teachers of losing her work. That being said, a month ago I found another student's lost assignment from last year underneath a stack of my copies.  Teachers make mistakes, too.

A.  Give her the benefit of the doubt and give her the grade of what she normally averages on big assignments.  Act like you found it so that the mom and girl don't think you're a crappy teacher.
B.  Just excuse her from the assignment so the points from the project don't help her grade or hurt her grade.
C.  Make her redo the assignment.  No proof no points.

MY ANSWER:  C.  I felt awful about it, and believe me, if that stupid project shows up in June when I'm cleaning out my room I will sit down and cry tears of embarrassment.  But I have no evidence of the assignment ever having been turned in.  I just can't give points for something I never saw.  I guess I am scarred by my eighth grade best friend who constantly said she handed in work she didn't, took advantage of our weak sauce English teacher, and ended up with an A without doing a stitch of work.  Kids can be sneaky, you know.

Every end of quarter I cut off the work deadline a week before the quarter actually ends.  This allows me to get grades in on time, keep my sanity, and helps me stay organized.  Inevitably there are always a few students who try to hand work in the day after the cut off.  My cut off for this quarter was Thursday, March 21.  I was gone on Friday for Ashley's wedding.  When I came back this morning, the sub had left a student's project on my desk.  A 100 point essay that wasn't turned in on time was now completed and done extremely well.  I could tell the student took some time with this.  If I accept this assignment, the student will pass.  If I do not accept it, the student will fail.

A.  Give the student the points.  It was only one day, no one has to know about it, and the important thing is that she did the work.  Isn't that what the point of all this is anyway?  Besides, it wasn't an extra inconvenience to me as I hadn't even started grading that period's work yet.
B.  Give her half the points she would have originally earned on it.  If it's enough to pass, she passes, if not, too bad.
C.  Don't give her any points.  The deadline was written on the board, I reminded students a million times, and she had plenty of opportunities to get it in on time.

MY ANSWER:  A.....?!?  I am still undecided on this one, but am leaning toward A because the work is already completed and because she really is a bright, capable girl- just struggles to get work in on time.  But then if I do this for one student do I have to do it for all students?  And why can't students just remember their freaking deadlines already?

TOMORROW:  Shabby Apple giveaway.  Make sure to stop on by!

Also, my high school is #2 in the nation for having the most unique high school mascot!  I felt all warm and tingly watching this footage of my old alma mater and the hicks who still inhabit that time.  GO DINOS!


  1. There is no question about it. You have a tough job. I think there is never a clear cut answer and you end up swaying from time to time. Go with what feels right!

  2. I teach 7/8 language arts and I ALWAYS have the same conundrums! When students say they turned something in I go through a CSI phase looking for clues and examining their behavior then I start to think "was it me? I think it was me? I'm an awful teacher!" I usually do the average of their major projects thing, but I know that I might be getting walked all over!

  3. Ooh I love these :) Our job is hard. And there really isn't any perfect answers. I hope those mean commenters understand that.

    1) I'd give her an incomplete (if that's an option.)If she gets stuff done, and it is passable, I'd take it late. Although, I would talk pretty frankly with the counselor. What are her chances she is going to do 56% worth of work to raise her grade to a D? Is she this far behind in the rest of her classes? What is reasonable for everyone, including the student??

    2)Did you see her work on it at all? If I had seen progress being made on it, I probably would have excused her. If not, I say to bad so sad. Especially with her history. So C? BUT if you are going to take this kids work late (because she is redoing it) you should probably take 4%er.

    3)I would accept it, because you were gone on the deadline day.

    Teaching is really a tough job. Sometimes I wish we had a one size fits all flow chart that tells us exactly what to do in every situation,

  4. I am NOT a teacher, but reading the situations makes me realize that teachers ARE put in difficult situations at times. I really do not think any answer is right. Just do what YOU feel is right!

    XO Lourdes

  5. ooh these are tough decisions!!!

    for #1, i'd do B.. i'm a junior in college right now and i'm struggling with a class i despise. i talked to my professor and she's letting me get some extra points for writing extra papers so i can just PASS the class without havingg to retake it. and that's fine with me.

    for #2, that's hard because i was in high school 3 years ago and I know students really do take advantage of their teachers. i'd make her redo it. just tell her to not watch pretty little liars for ONE night and crank out her assignment

    for #3... i'd just give her 10% of what she would have originally gotten or something! That's what my college professors do, it's like a third of a letter grade docked for every day it's late or something.

  6. ^and by 10% , i meant 10% OFF of what she would have gotten lol

  7. UGH. I am currently on break from college (I took time off to be a SAHM, 2 years ago. i will go back, i will go back... lol) and I was a teaching major. This was always one of the topics that scared me the most about teaching. Be firm so you don't get taken advantage of. But wait, don't be a heartless B either. such hard decisions. Honestly, intuition would be the only way I'd survive these situations. You know your kids, and you know what's right.

  8. I handed out 4th grade report cards today. I'm prepared for an onslaught tomorrow (and getting some nervous twitches just thinking about it).
    You see, in 4th grade, parents count their child's success as their own. So if a child does not do homework and gets a low grade in handwriting because he/she didn't hand in the assignments (not for lack of skill), the mother or father takes it personally...and takes it out on me.
    I wonder, what is your principal's opinion of your dilemmas? I agree with the decisions you made. But, you see, my principal tends to side with parents. He's overridden several of my decisions this year. Thereby making it very easy for me to leave my job when we move next month.
    Anyway, rant over. Being a teacher is tough.

  9. Anonymous11:30 PM

    Another high school English teacher here. Give him/her the credit, but knock off a few points. I am a pretty flexible teacher, and it usually works to my advantage. They like me and really hate disappointing me. When we get to an "I'm disappointed in you" conversation, they feel really, really badly because I'm the "nice" teacher.
    I would also rather have quality work turned in a day late than crappy work rushed and submitted on time.

  10. Man, this makes me glad I'm on Spring Break and that report cards are done!


  11. For student 3:

    In our schools some of the teachers have rules on late assignments. Depending on the teacher the rules could be as follows
    1. For every day the paper is late -5 points
    2. For every day late a letter grade is dropped.

    For this student I would probably not give her full credit, they all need to follow the deadlines even if it is a day late. I think it helps teach for college and for jobs.

  12. Working with teenagers - you never have easy calls. It sucks. A LOT and I hate it. But I feel like I would have done the same with these situations. As much as you want each student to pass, and they have crappy situations, you still have to make the touch choice.

  13. Anonymous7:35 AM

    Fellow high school teacher here! I completely agree with you on student 1! I mean, 4%? I have students like that, too, but it is dishonest to say that the student really "passed." Student 2 I would have probably done A or B. That is, if he/she has seriously never had any other discrepancies. Student 3: C!! Possibly B. But definitely not A! Is there any excuse for not having turned it in on time? I mean, they KNOW the deadline. Not turning it in then, and turning it in when you said they could NOT is blatant disregard for your rules, in my opinion.

  14. Those decisions are always so hard! As a kindergarten teacher I always get the parents complaining, writing notes to me, and making excuses! It's so much harder to be firm when you have parents yelling at you!

    I agree with your choice for all but #3. Maybe next year you could have a late grade policy. I think you should mark down x amount of points for each day it's late and if she still passes then great. In college they aren't going to care about excuses and its a straight letter grade off per day it's late late. It's only one day late so it doesn't deserve a ton of points off, but the student needs to learn the deadlines are there for a reason.

  15. For the last student, I'd grade her project and then deduct points for handing it in late. I had teachers in high school who would take off so much for each day it was late.

    Or you can tell them tough luck. They aren't going to get to hand in late work in college, they may as well get used to it now.

  16. I had basically the same scenario as Student #2 happen in my own life. I hated the teacher for it because it was the same deal: handwritten assignment, only one copy. It was the only time in my life I had ever received an F. I can't remember what happened in the end but I vividly remember scouring every inch of the closet in her room looking for it!

    For student #3 I vote for option A! Like you said, nobody has to know :) and sometimes you have to have exceptions to the rule.

    Good luck!
    :) Angela

  17. #2 is hard, and it happened to me ALL THE TIME. I would look every where in the classroom, explain that I never took work home and so I couldn't have lost it. "Let's both keep our eyes open for it, but you might have to redo it." Almost always, five minutes later: "Mrs. Thomas, I found it!"

  18. Student #1 - I would also do choice C. It is very sad about her home situation. Very, very sad. But she is the ONLY person that can get herself OUT of that situation and not repeat the cycle. And her first step is to do better in school. Show up and do your work. If all of these things are true about having an abusive father and an absent mother than SOMEONE needs to step in (or she needs to find a friend or family member) and get her out of that house and into something better. She needs to learn that it is not about your circumstances or where you come from, it is about the goals you must set for yourself and then follow thru to make them happen.
    Student #2 – I would have also done C. Or if she didn’t want to redo the whole assignment because she just KNOWS that she turned it in, maybe you could have given her another assignment, or assignments, to be able to get credit for what she was missing. One of my sons teachers did that for him. She gave him a few “smaller” writing assignments and gave him credit but not as much credit as he would have received for doing the real assignment.
    Student #3 – I would have also done A, but I would have taken off maybe 10-15 points for it being late. If I turn in something late at work, I get my butt chewed out.
    My son Zack is 12 and in the 6th grade. Zack is a smart kid but he also borders slightly on the ADHD side and he is distracted very easily. Especially when something is "too easy", aka boring, to him. He will do maybe 1/2 of an assignment and then just start doodling or what-not during his class time. Luckily, his teachers work with him (and me, even though I try not to step in too much) and he brought a 42% up to a 86% in about 2 weeks by talking with the teacher and getting extra assignments and doing things around the classroom for her. My 13 year old daughter Emilee is the complete opposite of Zack. She is in 8th grade and I have NEVER had a problem with this child in school ever. She has always been self-paced and very eager to learn. She is freaking out right now because she has an 88% in her AP Algebra class. She gets so mad that this teacher doesn't give them much credit for "class work" and mainly only gives them credit for their tests. So I know that all kids and each situation are different.
    I sometimes feel like a bad mom because I often take the teachers side over my son Zack’s side. I know my kids. I know how they act at home and so I have a good idea of how they would act in school. I made my son write apology letters to a few of his teachers because he was being disruptive in their classrooms and lazy by not turning in completed work. He has been doing a lot better since then. I tell my kids that their only job right now is school. And that the teachers are their boss and that how they are being now needs to reflect what they will do when they are out in the real world because I refuse to financially support them forever! I want a tummy tuck and a fast sports car before I die!!
    I love teachers! I seriously have the most respect for them. Most of you are there for the right reasons, to teach children. And I am very grateful for all of the teachers my children have had.

    Sorry about the book!

  19. Teachers do not get nearly enough credit for all the time and effort put forth in their jobs. I do not envy the tough decisions you have to make. However, you seem very fair. As is with everything in life, go with your gut.
    That didn't help too much now, did it? Apologies.
    In other related post news, my school's mascot is a Midget. The ladies are referred to as Midgettes. It's pretty awesome.

  20. Just wondering if you have a late policy, you know you're one day late you get 10% off, 2 days late 20% off, 3 days late 30% off the total grade... All of those are very hard situations to deal with. I have a degree to be a teacher, I'm just not one.. don't ask. anyway, whatever you do, not everyone will agree, but that doesn't matter. You're the ultimate decision maker. i had a teacher one time that said I don't give grades, you earn them.

  21. I agree with you on all of it! Student #1, while in unfortunate circumstances that she can't control at home, can at least control her time at school and shouldn't be given a free ride because she's struggling. She should show up and do the work. No one should hold her hand. Student #2 should redo the project if she wants the grade. Unfortunately, students do lie! Student #3 did the work and yes, it was a day late, but at least it was finished and there was no harm done. Maybe give a reminder to get things on time. Deduct like 5 points or whatever.

  22. making the hard decision may seem mean but I think you are really doing the kids a favor. better they learn to deal with these situations now than in their first job where they could be fired or in college where they are spending thousands of dollars just to find out they will fail because they don't know how to meet deadlines.

  23. I love these posts, so I hope you don't receive any mean comments this time. I appreciate learning the moral/mental aspect of being a teacher and how difficult it can be.

    1) I would choose B, but only if she completes assignments you've already assigned. No extra assignments for extra points. And since these assignments are all late, she would have to do ALL of them by the agreed-upon deadline (between you & the counselor) to receive a passing grade.

    2) I also agree with C, but I would give her a few days since it's such a time-intensive project. The fact that she has claimed other teachers have lost her work makes me suspicious, but based on her previous work in class, she deserves the benefit of the doubt... Just not to the extent of getting credit for work you can't grade.

    3) Like others have said, accept the work, but dock a percentage. I had a few high school teachers with late policies, and all my college profs had late policies. They ranged from as lenient as only one letter grade docked per day to as harsh as 50% off per day.

  24. Aaaaaa!!! I completely feel your pain! I am with you on all accounts, C, C, and A. However, I know that I would struggle with A for a while because I tend to be a bit of a hard head when it comes to grading and meeting deadlines. I often find myself closing my door at lunch, planning times, etc that last week so that students are less tempted to come bug me, but there are always a few that dare to enter anyway, even though they all know they will get my wrath-- especially if they bug me in the morning! To irk me even more, this quarter, Baltimore City decided grades should be due the day after we get back from Spring Break. Whaaaaaat? That meant working my butt off extra hard last week so I could enjoy this week in complete laziness! ;)

  25. I taught college freshmen for two years and struggled with many of these situations. We understand life happens, especially with Situation #1...but at the same time some things are just unacceptable.

    I had a 19 year old student who only attended 3 classes in the first half of the semester (class met three times a week) and only turned in two assignments out of about 25. I actually went out of my way to contact the student to tell them they should withdraw because they were going to fail my course. The students response "Is it really that bad?!" She gave me a crazy story but honestly, I had to do my job. She dropped the course before getting the F.

    Teaching is hard, you're doing the right things.

  26. Hey...are you calling me a hick? ;)

  27. Good for you for standing up for what you believe in. We live in such an entitled society that it sometimes makes me want to cringe. As hard as it is to see a child not do well because of a horrible home life is, I think teaching them that they can still succeed without doing anything is wrong. I could never imagine having to make that kind of a decision. But thanks to people like you, from what I have read about/from you so far you would have been a teacher I would have loved to have when I was in HS, there are kids better off for meeting you.

  28. Thank you Alice. I am so heartened as a teacher that there are parents out there like yourself who support the teacher to your children :-)

  29. I teach high school English too and I have had to face those exact same situations. It is so hard knowing what the right thing to do is. Like you said, if you make an exception for one student you have to do it for all of them. Can you do that? If on,y the kids would 1. do their work and 2. turn it in (on time)! I would have done the same thing you did (will do) for the first two. For the last one I would take the assignment but only give the student half credit (that is a department rule at my school: to take assignments a day late for half credit. It helps me know what to do in those situations but it is so hard to do! If it were up to me I might just take 10-20 points off or something).
    There are so many difficult decisions to make as a teacher! Good luck! I'm sure you will do the right thing.

  30. I actually agree with all three of your decisions. No one is perfect, so #3 should receive credit for the work, but be marked down a grade because of its lateness (a lesson is to be learned about being late here). The others need to learn that we all have expectations to meet, even though we may not be living under the best of circumstances. Great job!

  31. Regarding the student who said her work was lost... you could always call home and ask the mom if she recalls her child doing a project like you described... if she's a nice decent girl like you said she probably comes from a decent home... and the mom could clear up the misunderstanding. Then if she's making it up, her mom is in the loop.

    YOu did the right thing in situation #1. Regarding the girl who was a day late... I would not give full credit or take half off... both are kind of extreme... somewhere in the middle. Maybe one letter grade drop?

  32. Ugh. End of quarter DRAMA!

    I think in these situations you have to always just go with what is right for each student, and whichever one you can justify the most. My guiding post was usually this: My role is to teach students and to make sure they understand the material. If I have seen evidence and/or know that they "get it", I'm more lenient on late grades/missing projects/crabby parents. If I don't think they get it or they are always gone, I work with them and bend a few rules if need be [or 504] -- like I'll keep them after and let them take the test verbally with me or whatever. But if they don't get it, or can't write a sentence or find a verb, I can't really justify a good grade, right?

    YOUR choice will always be the right one because they are YOUR students. If you make an effort to know them, and I know you do, then you just do what you think is best for each one [which may not be the same thing for each one-- fair isn't always equal].

  33. Every time my mom comes into my classroom or hears me talk about my kids her one response is always: "you're soooo tough". I teach First Grade but I have a firm belief that it is never too early to start learning responsibility and respect and start instilling valuable life lessons. I get it though - its hard.

    And I love the above comment - fair isn't always equal and that's a tough lesson to learn, even as a teacher.

  34. It's in things like this that make me REALLY glad for my school's policies so that I don't have to deal with so many tough questions. Our whole school has moved to standards-based grading (so we don't even use the percentage-based ABC system that most people do). Since standards-based is heavily focused on the students mastering the material (no matter how long it takes), we give students top marks if they did the work to earn top marks, regardless of whether or not it's turned in on time. To try and motivate students to actually turn things in on time, though, we have "life skills" that are linked to getting work in on time, and if a student is consistently turning things in late, they miss out on schoolwide activities such as dances and super activities.

    I realize that this system works better for a middle school than a high school, but I have liked that it takes care of a lot of hard questions for me.

    I still hate how more than half the students turn their stuff in way past the deadline though. It drives me nuts.

  35. Man I could never be a teacher, seriously I give you all the respect in the world for being able to handle that. I also think you're right on for handing the first situation like you would. If she would have gone to class at least half to 3/4ths of the time that would be one thing but a student shouldn't just be able to pass her classes without any effort just because her home life is hard.