Zero Hour Scramble

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We have just finished the first quarter of the school year. Grades are due today by 3:00, although I suppose we technically have until midnight. I’ve never been a last-minute grader. I like to get them done and move on.This year is a little different from the last few. My grades are all done, it’s not that, but I have some students who have languished all quarter, who seemed impervious to anything I said to them about participating in class and doing their work as we went along. They seemed to go mute anytime I tried to talk to them about their lack of doing a single thing.

In the past couple of years I had many students who just didn’t seem to care. They accepted their failing grades without a hitch. Without even trying to make them up. This year, the kids have a different attitude. The boy/girl balance is off, however. I have far more boys than girls and the boys just have too much fun with one another. Figuring out how to do and hand in their work is just too much for them, somehow.

Until today. Suddenly one of the boys is eager to turn in everything he has missed so far. The meeting that has been scheduled with his parents seems to have lit a fire under him. I should probably tell him, “Too bad. It’s too late to change anything.” But I didn’t. Not this time. My class is a block, so whatever grade they get is doubled, and can seriously impact their ability to promote in the Spring. Upon hearing that I would still accept late work today, another boy (who has turned in about 17% of the work) asked if he could turn his work in by Friday. He received a refusal, but the one who has the work done today, not so. There is a limit, however to how high the grade can be lifted, and his 79.8% will still be a C unless he completes that one last assignment, a page of writing. Normally I’d give the B-, but not this time.

As I sat writing this on my lunch break, he arrived with his last assignment, a letter he wrote to me, telling me all about himself. He told me about how his grades have ended his soccer dreams, and he knows that his behavior in class is a big part of it. For the first time ever, he was quiet and sincere, not putting on a character for show. He got the B and managed to pull off a 2.2 Grade Point Average, which keeps him on track for promotion.

I’m thinking that a contract is in order for the next quarter.

What about you? Do you accept late work? Is tough love in order when they aren’t yet in high school? I’d love to hear what others do in a similar situation.

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