Getting Work In On Time or Character Trait: Deliberate

[image: stack of papers]
"Paper Weaving" by Joel Penner
I added a new word to my example name plate this year: deliberate. I realized last year that many of the deliberate ways I do things in the classroom aren’t recognized as such by students, other teachers, and administrators. For example, I don’t think I would have had so many of my classroom library books stolen if I had made it more clear that I spent time and money on buying hardcover books, then wrapping them in clear covers, so they would be nice copies, pleasurable to handle, and so they would last year after year.

This year I realized I am very deliberate about handling late work. The district is discouraging using late points on late work, but that doesn’t affect me. I’ve been using discipline forms to take care of this for years. Because most parents and students aren’t used to my system, I had to figure out a way to sell it to them. Biggest selling point: higher grades! I also stress that it forms good habits, and my way separates unwanted behavior (turning in late work) from the demonstration of academic achievement.

I also make sure the first six weeks, I give students more time if they show they’re willing to follow my procedure. They don’t end up with detention as quickly as they would turning in late work later in the year. I deliberately get students who demonstrate difficulty with deadlines on my side right away by giving them a reset early on. One day late equals a quick conference with the student where I explain the late work procedure. Two days late equals parent contact. I send home a letter to get signed that explains the procedure to the parent. If the student returns the letter the next day, they get a reset. If there’s no more late work for three weeks from the first incident, then the incidents “roll off” (we start over). The third late day equals detention using the school’s “not bringing required assignments” line on the level one write-up form.

This shows the student that it’s better to turn in work on time, but it’s not the end of the world if something gets in late. I think it’s the right balance, and it encourages communication from all parties involved (student, parent, and teacher). To encourage even better habits, the letter sent home encourages students and parents to notify me before the assignment is due that the student may need more time and to schedule tutoring before school, during advisory, or after school. One more responsible way to avoid detention and, more importantly, to get work in on time.

Each interaction I let the student know that this is just one more step and what they can do to get on the right track. Sometimes the letter doesn’t come back, so I talk to the parent. I discuss how to have a successful child, not how to avoid detention. I even remind those students who get anxious about my procedure that if they are students who don’t turn in late work, it doesn’t even matter what my procedure is — and the ones who worry, are often those conscientious students.

My procedure does take more time up front than just slapping a minus ten or twenty per day on an assignment, but in the long run, it means less late work — which saves me time overall.