At the beginning of every single school year, I agonize over whether or not to accept late work. Finding the balance between being firm and strict, but yet also caring, nurturing, and empowering is difficult to find. If you lean too far one way, you will lose students in the middle of the year.
For the first few years of my teaching career, I changed my late work policy with each new school year. One year I would accept late work at any point in the year, and the next year I would not allow any late work whatsoever. During the years when I would accept late work, I always seemed swamped and overwhelmed. During the years when I didn’t accept late work, I had less assignments to grade and saved a lot of time. I also thought that I was teaching my students about responsibility and accountability.
Allowing students to turn in late work is time consuming. You must be super organized, have a system in place, and put in extra time grading all of those late assignments that come rolling in toward the end of the grading period. It is much easier to simply say no. “No, I do not allow any late work. You are in high school now and you simply must know that there are deadlines and consequences for not meeting such deadlines.”
But what does that really teach our students? By not allowing students to turn in any late work, we are saying that once a time passes, we no longer care to see what they know, what they’ve learned, and what they have to share with us. By not allowing students to turn in any late work, we are saying that the learning stops. By not allowing students to turn in any late work, we are denying our students an opportunity to cultivate a growth mindset.
So even though it requires extra time and organization on my part, I will gladly accept late work from my students. However, even though I accept late work, I make it perfectly clear to my students that I do not look favorably at constantly missing deadlines.
My Late Work Guidelines
1. Do not make a habit out of turning in assignments late.
We are all human. We make mistakes, we forget things, and we miss deadlines. It happens. And in almost every single case, missing a deadline does not have an end-all-be-all hard-stop consequence. If we miss paying our taxes on time, we simply pay a late fee. If we forget about paying the electric bill, we have a 15 day grace period. If adults have failsafes such as these, so should students. I truly feel that it is important to realize this when we are dealing with our students.
2. Students must put in extra effort to turn in assignments late.If a student is going to turn in an assignment late, I want to talk to them. I want to know why it was late. I tell students to come to school early or stay after the end of the day to make up assignments. I will even grade the assignment right then and there and update their grade. While this is time consuming, it also does wonders for relationship building. I want my students to know that my door is always open. They can always come in before or after school to make up work they might have missed.
There are many ways to promote a growth mindset in your classroom, and accepting late work is one way to begin showing students how to keep learning and not give up. If you are interested in establishing a growth mindset in your classroom, check out my growth mindset resources. This resource includes activities, a self-assessment, and resources to help your students with cultivating their own growth mindset. This resource even includes a late work submission and redo slip!
Click HERE for growth mindset activities and resources.