Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Excuses!

I've been dabbling in some online teaching to earn some moolah while the freelance writing well is a tad dry. I try always to recognize that the students in this environment--much closer to that of a community college than to a university--have not had the educational opportunities or stability in their lives that my comp students have enjoyed.

I worked with at-risk learners for years in academic support for the student athletes. I'm sensitive and empathetic and try to view each student individually, taking into account the sociological context of every situation. Despite everything against them, you know what these athletes were not? Lazy. You know what they also were not? Excuse makers. They were "get 'er done" types of people, as many competitive athletes are and, accustomed to the rhythm of sport, took responsibility for losing as they did for low grades on specific assignments.

Not these online students! The excuses I get sometimes make my head explode. I'm trying very hard to not say, "If this were your paid job and I were your boss, would you still tell me that in response to your project being late?"

This morning, I found the following email: Why did I get a zero on the quiz? Online, it says it was due the 18th but the grades would be available on the 21st. To me, I feel like I have until the 21st to take it.

Really? Because the word "due" next to April 18 indicated, to me, that in fact April 18 was the last day to take it. How is that in any way confusing? I agonize over wordings of assignments and spend hours making sure things are clearly written. No, this kid gets a 0.

Another one wants an extension because her internet doesn't work at home and she doesn't like the library. I don't like having to do extra work because students submit work beyond the deadline and I have to carve out additional time to grade it. But I do it! Because that is life. We do things we don't like in life.

I feel closer to being a parent right now, amidst my online teaching, than I have my entire pregnancy. I feel what must be a small taste of the insane frustration in raising a teenager and, my goodness, my son will not be an excuse maker! Ownership!!! Own your tardiness and own your zeroes. Gah!


kk said...

You want some great excuses take to Mr. Matthew he is the best for not doing anything home or school and having an excuse that some how makes it everyone else's prolblem. I hope you have better luck getting Baby Lev to own his problems then I did with son #1. Son #2 does great in this area. At least I got it half right:+)

Valtastic said...

Hey you being hard on htem will show them it's not ok in the real world and it's better to learn now..

Katy said...

i don't even feel like i'm being that hard. i mean, it says "due april 18." my goodness! can you just imagine if i told an editor, "oh, well when you said due april 18, to me that meant i had until april 21..."

it makes my heart rate increase just thinking about it.

Valtastic said...

by hard i mean not bending the rules... you're making them follow through with commitments.. they'll learn..

Anonymous said...

I like this post a lot!
I agree with Val. Perhaps these students have never had anyone hold them to expectations? If a student said "I don't know how to write personal biographies", would you not teach them how to write personal biographies? Well, these students are saying to you "I don't know how to manage my time and meet deadlines", so do what you can to teach them how to meet deadlines (e.g. sticking to your due date).
Which isn't to say it's not extremely frustrating for you!

-Jordan "Billy" Builderschmidt

Jane said...

This is my #1 frustration with middle schoolers for the last 31 years! Take responsibility!

Snacky D said...

I think you and Corey are going to be great parents. If this world had more parents like you, that try to teach responsibility and ownership, it would be a much better place.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post! I think there is an article in it. I laughed out loud at the student's response about the due date (definitely a meaningful phrase for you.) Keep taking notes about this. How about placement in the NY Times' special Education section, which they publish about twice a year? ellen, mil