Sunday, January 30, 2011

Student excuses

Working online adds a whole new field of student endeavor – excuses for why the work didn’t get done.  The trick is to sift out the real problems from the mealy-mouth I-hope-you’ll-buy-this excuses. 
finger mobile 7photo © 2005 J E Theriot | more info (via: Wylio)

I’m a firm believer in heading off problems before they occur, so:
  • The first time I ask students to do something, I have them do it F2F in the computer lab.  That way, I can head off misunderstandings, balky technology, fooling around instead of learning.  That first time builds confidence.  This may be the Facebook generation, but they do not automatically know how to use a discussion forum. 
  • I post assignments both on the class moodle and on the class Edline page (a class webpage the school provides).  That way, if the student forgot their moodle password, they can still do the work.  The discussion may not be available, but the student can still write down the work and hand it in or email it to me.  The extra minutes are worth it to me since I eliminate wiggle room.
  • For written work, students always have the option of emailing it to me (a godsend for the organizationally challenged), saving the work to a flash drive to print at school, or even hand-wlriting the work.  This eliminates the ever-popular “my printer isn’t working” excuse.  

Early in the year, I get a fair number of excuses along the lines of “I forgot my password.”  I might forgive late work once, letting the student know that this won’t work again. 

But later in the year, what I mostly get is just plain old excuses.  Not reasons, excuses. I usually deal with these face to face because that's when I hear them. 
  1. Gee, I just couldn’t get on, so I couldn’t do the work.  I see, so you waited until 10 PM the night before something was due, then tried to login, and couldn’t remember your password.  Is that right?  Um, yes.  But you have alternatives to do the work, don’t you, so where is it?
  2. “It” wouldn’t work.  Um, could you be a bit more specific.  Just exactly what wouldn’t work?  Which “it” are we talking about here?  Um….
  3. I tried to finish the work, but “it” just wouldn’t let me.  Gee, I checked.  You did half the work a week ago, and haven’t logged in since then, so how is that trying to finish the work? 
  4. We lost internet.  That might actually be true (many of us live in rural areas). I consider whether the student is generally truthful. 
  5. Excuse number 557 from the “usual suspects.”  When kids always have an excuse, I assume they are lying to me again, and don’t accept the excuse.  This is a lesson in creating your own reputation. 
  6. Well my computer isn’t cabled to the printer so I couldn’t print.  And you couldn’t email it or save it on a flash drive/data stick to print at school or hand write it?
  7. When I click nothing happens.  Really?  Both places that I posted the work?
  8. Well, we were really busy…  And you knew about the work for a week, right?  Um…  Considering that we did a media literacy unit in which students made clear that they are online quite a bit for Facebook and online games, the “I didn’t have time” excuse doesn’t get flown much. 
  9.  I particularly love the excuses that only surface after I have posted grades.  Well I couldn’t…  I'm wondering why you didn’t you tell me this last Thursday, when you were supposed to do the work. 
Parent excuses are a whole other thing.  I’ll give any student one parent excuse.  After that, because there are parents who just can’t bear for their child to receive consequences for their choices, I don’t accept parent excuses.  I tell the parents I’ll give their child an extension this one time – this makes me reasonable and responsive, but not a pushover.  I make sure to give my principal a copy of the emails to avoid those nasty end-runs.

Students are endlessly inventive when it comes to excuses.  But we don’t have to be pushovers.

No comments:

Post a Comment