Cutting Them a Break

Over the years, I’ve pondered the ins and outs of cutting students a break. 

Of course, we are all happy to meet the accommodations for Special Education students, for which we are legally obligated as well. I also find myself considering cutting problematic students a break, which include kids who have ongoing problems at home, troubles with drugs, and the ubiquitous victim mentality (the other face of which is the entitlement mentality).ImageOn the one hand, sometimes these students can be so demanding (if not downright annoying), that we may think it’s outside our purview to extend deadlines, allow for do-overs, and so on. On the other hand, once we know the true situations of many of these students, It’s likely that our compassion may overcome our irritation and we will reach out and cut them a break.

I note that even with this break, many of them still don’t perform well, but in my mind, at least at present, that’s probably another good reason to cut them a break. After all, even with our kind reaching out, when the student doesn’t benefit from our help, it’s another good lesson to them on how they may need to change their ways and begin to take care of their responsibilities for themselves.

Especially in the world of online learning, the machine is particularly unforgiving. The points add up, and that’s your grade. One bad assignment can ruin a student’s entire grade. From one point of view, we could say, “Oh, well, that’s the way it is is for everyone; too bad if the student can’t measure up.” But from another point of view: “This is education. Let’s give her another chance and see if she can learn to complete the assignment well.” 

During my whole career as a teacher, I’ve hated giving grades. They give such little information about how students have learned, and I feel the whole system is punitive and gives too much power to the teacher and/or the computer system. Students want grades and parents want grades; colleges want grades and football coaches want grades, so we give them. 

At least, then, we can cut the students with problems a little break, so they too can learn to navigate the system that is school. For those who take us up on it and improve their work, well, that’s good education!

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