Thursday, March 31, 2016

Deadlines Are For Kids

Anyone else remember "Trix are for kids"? Well, I'm becoming more and more convinced that, today, deadlines are for kids.

I hear endless discussions about deadlines and due dates. About how we need to teach kids responsibility. And how they need to have "consequences" when they don't turn in their assignment on time. (Never mind that both the assignment and the deadline are often pretty arbitrary, but I digress.)

So, let me share just a few examples from the last couple of weeks in my neck of the woods.
  1. My school district is implementing a new unified password system. As part of that, staff members have to answer 5 challenge questions in advance so that, if they need to change their password in the future, they can do it themselves via a web interface. The district sent out very detailed instructions for how to do this, a process that takes less than 4 minutes. A couple of weeks later 40% of staff still hadn't done it, so they sent me a reminder to send out to my staff, which I did. The "due date" was March 18th. Two weeks later (including a week off for spring break), and I've had multiple staff members come up to me and say, "Sorry, I didn't get to that, can I still do that?"

  2. We're 12 weeks into the semester. In one particular class there are 3 grades in the grade book: Week 1 participation, Week 2 participation, and a grade from January 15th.

  3. In another class, they took a test on March 18th. No grade (and, more importantly, no feedback, as of yet). Also three quizzes from before that that still aren't in the grade book.

  4. In yet another class, last grade is from February 28th.

    With all three of these classes the problem isn't so much the lack of grades (although that is still problematic when students are held accountable for their grade), but the lack of feedback. How can students learn from their work if they don't get timely feedback?

  5. We have a monthly newsletter for parents with articles that our submitted by many different staff members that is created in Publisher, then converted to PDF, and posted on our website. (I know, I know. Monthly. PDF. But this is progress, keep in mind that until two years ago we printed and mailed 2400+ copies of this 15-20 page newsletter each month.) I'm not sure the newsletter has ever been done on time. And, pretty much every month, there are at least two or three corrections that have to be posted because of mistakes (typos, incorrect information, etc.).

  6. We're trying to get some new computer science courses approved in my district. Part of the process is to present the info to a committee in my building. The week before the meeting I sent all the information to them. Admittedly, there was a lot of information so, anticipating that might be too much, I specifically pointed them to the one (page-and-a-half) document they should definitely look at which summarized the courses, and then they could drill deeper if they really wanted to. I get to the meeting and it appears as though none of them have looked at it. They ask me to write the courses on the white board so they can see them.
Do I ever miss, or stretch, or forget about deadlines? Sure, of course I do. But I also don't enforce (often arbitrary) deadlines for students, then scold and punish them (including docking their grade) when they don't meet them. That's not to say that I don't think deadlines can have meaning or importance, but it means that I think we need to keep in mind the bigger picture of what we're doing here.

So my question is, for all the teachers who are represented in numbers 1-6 above, what are you going to do the next time a student misses a deadline?

1 comment:

  1. You know the funny thing, deadlines in the "real world" are no where near as fixed as teachers imagine too. I do a lot of work with the private sector with our Easyblog company, and let me tell you, our developers are ALWAYS late. Ever had renovations done? Did they finish on time? Heard about all the government projects that run years over? Actually in the "real world" most work takes longer than the deadline and it is only in a few cases that there are actually penalties or that is HAS to be done on time.