Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No More Excuses

It may not be comfortable, but educators have to be savvy enough to quit buying the 2.0 version of the dog ate my homework.

A blog post by Alain Meyer entitled "A New Era of Homework Excuses" caught my attention.  He talks about how students take advantage of teachers and their ignorance when it comes to technology.  Technology becomes the excuse for whatever a student has failed to deliver.  I think he has a point.  We allow students to take advantage of us in our attempts to extend some grace.

CC Aaron Jacobs
I recently sat down at lunch with a student who had failed to give a presentation the previous day for the teacher sitting next to her.  She forgot her laptop that day.  Really?!?  We are 1:1 laptop school.  How do you forget your laptop?  I questioned her further.  I asked her if she really had the presentation done.  Of course, she said, yes.  I questioned her further about what the timestamps on her files might tell me.  She dodged the question and we had a laugh, moving on to other conversation.  I have no doubt that she took advantage of the extra time to work on her presentation to say the least...and probably didn't have it ready to begin with.

While in college, I've worked for hours on a paper and then lost a half day's work.  Did that change the due date?  Nope.  Work faster, stay up later, and make it better the second time around. The other day I was working on a document and lost it (due to my own user error).  That work did not suddenly go away. I had to redo it and still make my deadlines.  It's the real world and although grace is nice, we need to push students away from excuses and toward responsibility.  I suppose having them take responsibility for their own learning is a major goal here.  Life doesn't always wait for the planets to align.  Sometimes we get curveballs at the worst possible times.

As educators, we continue to integrate more technology in the classroom.  We need to hold students accountable.  I'm not advocating losing all understanding and graciousness with students. We just need to use it a little more sparingly and hold ourselves accountable for some learning in this area.  It may not be comfortable, but educators have to be savvy enough to quit buying the 2.0 version of the dog ate my homework.


  1. Doesn't your argument go against the IB MYP position on being able to hand in late work with no academic penalty?

  2. I don't know that is just an IB MYP position. The arguments against late work go much further than an IB thing. Thanks for bringing this up! I wondered if anyone would raise this issue.

    If work is being graded on a standard, it should be assessed by that standard. If the standard is "turns work in on time," then yes, it should impact the grade. If the standard is demonstrating a skill and competency, then whether or not that work is completed on time really should not impact the students accomplishment of that standard. That's the perspective your question draws from.

    Reflecting the child's accomplishment of a standard through the grade is important. It's the whole point of standards-based reporting. As I recall, our schools have separated out non-academic behaviors. I would argue that turning work in on time falls into a non-academic behavior. It should not affect the academic grade or accomplishment of a certain standard.

    Perhaps that's more than you asked, but it's a brief synopsis of the assessment discussion. I would say my post doesn't go against that philosophy. Why?

    I refer to accountability. I believe accountability comes in a variety of forms, not always in a grade. Call a spade a spade. If students do not complete their work, we need to tell them they didn't do their work. If we buy into excuses that expose our ignorance, we are discrediting ourselves and doing both the student and ourselves a disservice. Sometimes accountability comes in disciplinary consequences, parental contact, staying after school to work on a product with the teacher, etc. My point is don't take technology as an excuse, treat a failure to deliver as you would if the student said I didn't get it done. A failure to deliver is a failure to deliver. No more, no less.

    Thanks for the question!

  3. I am always impressed with the depth of thought behind your writing. I usually find I agree with you when I get more details.
    On a different note, I was amazed when I came across a website that sells corrupted computer files (files that fail to open) to turn into your teacher. The premise was this would buy you extra time to actually finish the assignment.

  4. Thanks for the kind words! Thanks for commenting and engaging in the dialogue!