Are we helping or hindering?

Fourth grade, so far, has gone well for J (knock on wood, fingers crossed, thank you, God). My much more laid-back approach and the reasonable amount of homework are mostly responsible for this (so far) less stressful year. J, for the most part, does her homework without my begging or yelling. And she has been much more responsible. If she says she has no homework or knows the material for a test, I give her the benefit of the doubt. Hubby is not a fan of my mostly hands-off approach, but considering she is a motivated student who makes mostly A's, I say why not give her the chance on her own.

But, of course, eventually, a snag occurs. Three weeks into this school year, J forgot a workbook. Bri was rather disappointed. I, on the other hand, thought it was impressive she made it that long. Considering that by this time last year, she had forgotten books and/or her folder or planner at least three times, I call this progress! Regardless, J was quite upset with herself and worried about getting a zero. And this got me thinking about last year's range of homework policies.

One teacher gave a zero for a late assignment, but made the kids do it anyway.

Another teacher also gave a zero, but would not require the kids to complete the missed work.

A third teacher would give half credit if the assignment was turned in the next day.

A fourth teacher would often accept a late assignment the next day with no penalty.

I have been debating with myself which is the best policy, or if there is something even more effective, and I am not 100 percent sold on any of them. I like the first and last policies the least. The first seems too harsh, and a strong-willed/disrespectful (or, one might argue, savvy) kid may just refuse to do the missed work, knowing it doesn't count. And the last creates a disincentive for doing the work on time. So for me, the best policy lies somewhere in between (or maybe is) one of the middle two.

Most of me thinks if you don't do the work on time, you need to accept the failing grade. As an adult, if you don't get to the bank before it closes or if you pay a bill late, you pay the price. On the other hand, these kids are not adults, and yet they have a lot of responsibility, way more than I did when I was there age, so can't we cut them a little slack? In the business world, if you forget something at work, you can usually go back and get it or get in early the next day, knowing that the end result may not be as good as it would have been had you done it right and on time in the first place.

Which leads me to this question I posted on Facebook: If a student forgets a school book, should he be allowed to go back to school after dismissal or before homeroom starts the next day to get said book to complete his work?

One person interpreted that to mean should the parents let their kids go back and fetch a forgotten book. This particular person said her first grader forgot his work and she went back for it, telling him he gets one time to do this. I was actually asking if teachers should allow it, but I appreciated her perspective, which seems to be in the neighborhood of how I feel.

Two others, both teachers, said it depends on the situation. One seemed to be in favor of allowing a student who forgot the book due to a hectic day or legitimate distraction. In J's case, she blamed it on the student recorder who apparently keeps forgetting to write the assignments on the board. I can understand why kids might miss assignments thanks to that. But I also told Jordan it is ultimately her responsibility to write down the assignments and bring home the correct books. You cannot rely on others to do either for you. Plus "when I was your age" no one else kept track of our assignments (though I have no idea how we did remember, but until 6th grade we had the same teacher all day, so it was much less of an issue).

I remember last year a mom joking that going back to school to get a forgotten assignment was akin to breaking into Fort Knox. She did not understand why the kids would be discouraged from doing the work. But again, I can see both sides. If you keep letting kids go back to get things, how will they learn to be responsible or understand there are negative consequences for not doing what what is expected? Yet if a kid realizes he he forgot something and cares enough to try to right the situation, shouldn't that be acceptable?

What say you, blog readers? Because I am just not sure.


Shannon W. said…
We currently try to help our daughter (in 3rd grade) get the assignment done either by going back to school to get the book (if we can), making her call a classmate to get the assignment, or going into school earlier the next day.

I think our reasons are that it doesn't happen very often (~1/month) and when it does she gets very anxious about it (not-falling-asleep-screws-up-the-whole-next-day anxious).

My challenge this year is that our school switched to an online system that shows assignments (in addition to grades). So tempting to check on what her assignments are and then nag her about them rather than let her take responsibility and tell me what she has to do when she gets home.
When I taught middle school and high school, I accepted late work, but penalized the student 10 points (out of 100) for each class day it was late. So an assignment that would have been an A became a B if it was one day late. I wanted to find a way to enforce the importance of being on-time, but without making them lose the incentive to do the work at all. I think it's great for kids and parents when schools have the same (reasonable) policy across the teachers.
Facie said…
Shannon: Seems reasonable and is probably the approach we will take. And I do check the online thing a few days a week. I am too forgetful to do it every day, but if J starts to miss assignments frequently, I will probably be on it daily. Is your school using Option C?

Kristen: That seems reasonable as well, although the assignments I am talking about are worth 10 to 20 points. It would be easier or least more sensible if everyone had the same policy, but at least we were able to keep track of which teacher had what policy last year. This year I don't have not yet memorized the different policies, but to the best of my recollection (which is not so great), they seem to be more in line with each other.

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