I used to be a huge stickler on late work. When I first started teaching, I didn’t accept late work at all. If you didn’t turn it in on time, I didn’t accept it.
After a year or so, I relaxed ever so slightly. Work turned in one day late would be accepted for half credit. After that, work was not accepted for credit.
I stuck with that rule for a long time. Other teachers in my school had the same rule, so it seemed reasonable.
But then last year happened.
Last year, my seventh and eighth grade honors English class taught me a lot about stress and about what things really matter. They taught me about being a middle school student in the 21st century in a small school in East Central Indiana.
I had about a half dozen seventh graders who were gigantic balls of stress. And they had reason to be. They were involved in volleyball, basketball, student council, 4-H, Future Problem Solvers, dance teams, and academic teams. On top of that, most of them were taking at least one high school class, so even as seventh graders, they were worrying about maintaining a particular GPA for their college transcripts.
And I’m a tough teacher. I have high expectations and a lot of rigor in my classroom.
Unfortunately, this was driving those students to the edge. I needed to rethink some things.
I started to relax some of my rules. Not the important ones, not the ones that maintain order in the classroom. But the ones that, especially in middle school, really don’t matter. And late work was one policy I really started to think about changing.
It started small. I would tell a particular stressed out student, or a student who was struggling to finish a paper or understand a concept, to just take one more day. “Just turn it in by tomorrow,” I’d say. “I’ll still give you full credit.” And that seemed to be okay. It was a case by case basis, and no one took advantage of it.
By third quarter, I was thinking of changing my late work policy altogether. Under the recommendation of my principal, I changed it with only my eighth grade classes. That way, if it didn’t work, the seventh graders, whom I would still have in class the next year, wouldn’t know any different. So for fourth quarter last year, I gave each student three late passes. For the last nine weeks of school, they had three opportunities to turn in work one day late with no penalty at all.
This made me insane. I would give a lot of time for a small assignment, and still have students ask to use a late pass. I had a couple of students who used all three late passes in the first two weeks of the quarter. I decided that didn’t work for me.
Over the summer, I read some articles that made me consider another plan, which I am trying this year. Students’ grades have two parts. Ten percent of their grade is for “On Time Homework.” The other 90 percent is all the assignments we do in class. If students turn in their homework on time, they earn points in the on-time homework category. If not, they don’t. However, even if the work is late, I will still accept it for no penalty on the work itself for up to two weeks.
I hope this will help not only my bright but anxiety-ridden high-ability students, but also my lower ability students who just sometimes need a little more time.
How was late work accepted when you were a student? If you’re a teacher, what’s your late work policy?