However, looking back over my evolution in the classroom, I know that I’ve spent too many years wearing the wrong hat. I was policing. I was giving out “tickets” for late assignments, for homework not completed, for work that was not up to par. The tickets, of course, took the form of mark deductions, late penalties that were meant to keep my students in line. They were punishments, not the teaching tools I believed them to be.
Then, we were told by our district that we could no longer deduct marks for late assignments. We could no longer assign a zero for mark not handed in. Uproar ensued.
“If there’s no penalty for late work, students will pass assignments in whenever they please!”
“We will get a stack of work at the end of the semester and be overwhelmed with marking!”
“Aren’t we supposed to teach them work habits??”
My voice was there, loudly protesting with the rest. But then, a funny thing happened. When I stopped policing “bad student behaviour”, I started to do a better job of teaching them. And, yes, some students do slack off and not get assignments in on time–or done–but they are the same students who didn’t do it when we took marks off for lates. I’ve also come to realize that a good number of them really aren’t motivated by marks, which is actually a pretty poor motivation anyway.
My job is to teach my students how to think and learn and improve. I can’t do that by crossing my arms, wagging my finger and saying, “Sorry. You’re too late. Sucks to be you.” That was my approach for far too long, and since I changed it, I am so much happier as a teacher. I still set due dates and make a big deal of them. But I also teach and model the fine art of time management and organization. I do a lot more formative assessment, and allow students to redo assignments if they want to. I used to avoid this practice for fear of being overwhelmed with marking, but I’ve come up with a good system for managing it. Plus, when you see students improve after taking your feedback, it feels pretty good. And isn’t that our ultimate goal? That students get better at what we want them to do?
Watch for a further post on how I manage my new system and feel free to leave comments below. I know this is a very controversial topic, but I sure love a good debate!