Accepting Late Work

I want to thank everyone who responded to the poll about late work, and especially those of you who elaborated about your views in the comments on that post.  I posted that poll because I’m currently struggling with my own policy, and I needed to hear your thoughts.

Eighty-seven people responded to the poll.  Of the respondents, 62% said they take late work at a significant penalty to a grade.  I didn’t specify in the poll, and truthfully, the word “significant” could have different meanings to different people.  Some of us might consider 10% significant, while others might interpret that to mean 30%.  Another 18% of respondents said they take late work at no penalty, while 20% said they take late work only in rare and extenuating circumstances.

Currently, I fall within the 20% who only take late work in rare and extenuating circumstances.  What I mean by that is that if a student has a prolonged absence, I have taken work late.  If a student had a death in the family, I also take work late.  However, other extenuating circumstances arise for which I’ve not taken work.  Computers break, files get corrupted, printers don’t work, assignments are “forgotten.”  Sometimes teenagers are just teenagers and make poor decisions about managing their time.  I do that, too, and I’m old enough to be their mother.  Considering all I’m juggling this year, I have had more empathy with flaky reasons for not getting work done than I have in the past.  I have been grateful for the fact that my ITMA program does not have hard and fast due dates and that if I have an insane week, I don’t have to worry about the fact that I’m turning in my assignment late.  However, I have to admit that there are real-world repercussions for turning in work late.

The poll reflects my own struggle with taking late work, and some of the commenters made really good points.  I am not planning to change my policy in late March in the middle of a school year, but I am thinking that for next year, I will take late work at a penalty.  I don’t want students to feel it’s OK to turn their work in whenever they can because I will become disorganized, and I will be overburdened.  In fact, one of the reasons I decided not to take late work was that I couldn’t keep track of when it was turned in.  Of course, that’s stupid because I could just write it down when it’s turned in.  I have a make-up work policy in effect, too, and I have a hard time keeping track of how many days it’s been since a student returned.  I do it, but it causes no end of frustration on my part.

I would love suggestions for a late work/make-up work system that works.

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Late Work

I am curious as to your policies regarding late work.  Will you take a moment and answer this poll (if you are so inclined)?  Feel free to elaborate on your answers in the comments if you wish.  The poll expires Monday evening.

Do you accept late work?

  • Yes, at a significant penalty to the grade. (62%)
  • Only in rare and extenuating circumstances. (20%)
  • Yes, at no penalty. (18%)
  • Never. (0%)

Total Votes: 87

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I adopted a word at Save the Words: magistricide.

magistricide: noun; the killing of one’s master or teacher

Etymology: Latin, magister, teacher or master + -cide from caedere, to kill.

Usage: If Mrs. Huff doesn’t quit assigning so much work, I’m entertaining magistricide as a viable option.


I have vowed to use this word as much as possible, but I chose it not just because I have a dark sense of humor (sometimes), but also because it makes me think about so much of what I read about in reference to education.

New teachers are a lot like young students.  They’re excited to begin teaching.  They have lots of ideas.  In my experience, they work like the dickens to help students.  But there is an epidemic of metaphorical magistricide.  The state of so many of our schools today kills that desire to teach, and teachers leave the profession in droves in their first few years.  I feel very sad for some of my colleagues in the edublogosphere when I read about their experiences, and I feel sad sometimes when I reflect on my own experiences in other schools.  I am so happy to be teaching where I teach right now.  I love my students and colleagues.  I feel invigorated by teaching.  I am given so many opportunities to try new things, like Web 2.0 tools, when other teachers are being cut off with irrational blocking or fearful administrators who don’t trust their teachers.

So many of my colleagues don’t have the kind of support I have, either (from either parents or administrators).  I know I can count on my administrators, but what do you do if you work in a place where students do not have to meet expectations for behavior?  I tried teaching in a needy school with a poor administration in my first year.  I was so depressed.  I used to cry on my way to work because I didn’t want to be there.  At best, all I could manage was crowd control, and even if I was able to manage that, I felt successful given the odds.  My students didn’t really learn because I was not given the support to really teach.

Teacher attrition is a big concern of mine because after my first four years, feeling beleagured and unsupported, I wanted to quit.  I did quit.  I came back, had two more years in a failing school with no discipline and finally lucked into my present position.  I wonder if I’d be teaching now if I hadn’t found a job at my current school.  I can’t say with certainty that I would be.  I am not one to toot my own horn, but I think I’m a pretty good teacher.  I am passionate about my teaching.  How many really potentially good teachers are lost every year to this form of magistricide?

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I created a Diigo group for my students some time ago, but it wasn’t until Monday, when we had a snow day (weird that we’ve had 70° weather in the same week as a snowstorm) that I invited all my students to join.  The lack of response has been deafening.  I understand to a degree.  It’s one more tool, one more crazy thing Ms. Huff wants us to do, blah, blah, blah, don’t see the point.  One the one hand, I hate that I have to make use of these tools a requirement to convince students to use them.  I am not going to make the Diigo group a requirement the way I did commenting on my blog.  However, I have noticed something.  Those students who do engage with the tools I provide — whether it’s watching videos I share on the classroom blog, using Diigo, commenting on the blog, listening to recommended podcasts, or even reading suggested links — tend to do better in class.  Why?  Simple.  The tools help.  Reading, viewing, listening, engaging — all these tools help my students learn the material in more depth or in more ways.  Learning more leads to better understanding.  Better understanding leads to higher grades.  I prefer to leave it for my students to come to this realization, but when/if they do, I wonder what will happen when I have full engagement.

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Moving from Delicious to Diigo

I have been a Delicious user for nearly four years.  I love it that I no longer lose my bookmarks and can take them with me from computer to computer.  I love it that I can share my bookmarks with others and tag them according to a folksonomy that makes sense to me and enables others to find them.  I have no intention of closing my Delicious account, but I have exported my Delicious bookmarks to Diigo.  I also set up my Diigo account to post my new Diigo bookmarks to Delicious for users who know me better over there, so you don’t have to change a thing if you are subscribed to my Delicious bookmarks.  You’ll still get new bookmarks.

It isn’t that I have any problems with Delicious at all; it’s just that Diigo is more versatile.  Using the Diigo toolbar, I can annotate Web pages that I visit.  Finally, users can mark up the Web like they mark up other reading they do.  Annotation allows me to comment on what I see, interact with other commenters, or simply take notes.  The toolbar also allows me to automatically save and/or e-mail links.  Delicious allows for the same type of sharing, but it lacks the annotation component.  Therefore, you will now see my latest Diigo bookmarks in the sidebar, courtesy a linkroll widget Diigo provides.  I am also able to easily share bookmarks with groups, which I have begun doing, as I am a member of Diigo in Education, English Teachers, and Interactive Whiteboards in the Classroom groups at Diigo.  I was even able to create a group for my students.  It’s invitation-only, but all the links I post to that group will be saved to my bookmarks, too.  I think you can see the group, but you won’t be able to join it or post to it unless I invite you, and in order to make this place my students’ own, I have decided to invite only students.

You will have to decide whether Diigo or Delicious is better for you.  I have nothing but positive things to say about either social bookmarking system, but the good news is that you don’t have to choose one over the other to keep up with my bookmarks.  With Diigo, I can crosspost, and you won’t miss a thing.

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Week in Reflection: February 23-27

This week I am caught up on grading.  I’ve seen lots of talk out there among the English Edublogosphere and Twitter about feedback on student writing.  Something I do about once a semester is type comments as I read a student’s writing.  I usually wind up with about a page when I’m done.  It’s like a written conference.  I wish I had more time for writing conferences in my schedule.  I tried recording my feedback, and it felt like an awkward additional step.  Because I have smaller classes, I am able to give substantial feedback on writing and still ask my students to do plenty of writing.  That’s not to say it’s not a challenge to grade, but it’s such a reward when I can compare students’ progress.  It’s really evident when I compare ninth graders’ writing to eleventh graders’ writing.  It’s not that eleventh graders necessarily are inherently better writers, but I can see the growth that has taken place because I know they were writing like the ninth graders two years ago.  Another thing I have done is allow students to revise for a higher grade.  I gave my students a handout with Seven Deadly Sins — seven common grammatical issues I see in their writing — and a point value to be subtracted for each instance of the “sin” in their paper.  They can erase their sins by figuring out what they did, correcting it, and attaching an explanation of their errors and corrections to the second draft.  All is forgiven.

Right now my juniors are writing poetry explications.  I don’t think I was asked to write an explication until I was in college.  My freshmen are busily writing argumentative essays.  My sophomores are in the midst of a research paper.  Lots of writing going on!

I have really been enjoying the conversations with my department this week.  Teaching can be so isolating, and it is good to connect and discuss with those who share the same burdens and joys that we do as a result of working in the same place.  I feel sad when I hear stories of departments that aren’t close and refuse to collaborate.

My juniors read poetry (John Donne to John Milton) this last couple of weeks, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of positive comments regarding the readings that they were making on the classroom blog.  My students are generally, I believe, fairly honest about their likes and dislikes.  When I was first exposed to these writers, I admit I didn’t care much for them.  In fact, until college, I didn’t much care for writing before about 1800 or so.  All that changed, and I actually find I like the older literature more now (go figure), but I have to admit that my teachers in high school did very little to engage me in that literature.  I had one excellent English teacher in high school, and the rest of my English classes are a blur.  I remember a lot of what I did with her because it was engaging and interesting.  I hope I am not flattering myself too much to think I have actually engaged my juniors in Late Renaissance/Restoration poetry, but it feels good to read such positive comments.

What this post lacks in coherence chalk up to the fact that what I share is more or less stream of consciousness.  Grad school is starting to get challenging.  I’m learning, and I am enjoying my classes, but I can’t pretend it’s not difficult.

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