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Accentuate the Positive! Kimberly Johnson, a recent graduate of the University of North Dakota, is a first-year English teacher at Valley Middle School in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Was it the full moon? Was it Halloween? Was it too much candy? Whatever "it" was, my students were -- almost literally -- bouncing off the walls this week.

Friday marks the last day of the first quarter. (One down, three to go!) I made Tuesday the cut-off date for late work in order to give myself enough time to correct all the assignments before final grades are due. But so many students turned in late assignments, it took me four hours last weekend to correct the late work alone. After that, I still had to correct their regular work and make-up assignments!

Our team's policy is that work turned in late is docked one grade per day; late work is not accepted at all after a chapter is completed. I have an interesting problem, though, because I don't teach by chapters. My students and I jump around in their grammar books -- and I sneak in research papers and other writing activities here and there. Because no clear cut-off date existed, I ended up with assignments from the third week of school that were just turned in last week!

I've learned my lesson though. My policy for next quarter will be to accept no late work after two weeks. I know that's not exactly what the other teachers on my team are doing, but I just can't continue to grade work that comes in six weeks late!

One team in our school has a "no late work" policy; they accept no work after the due date, unless arrangements were made with the teacher ahead of time. On one hand, it would be nice to not have to worry about chasing down students' work. On the other hand, I'd like my students to do the work I give them -- late or not -- because I feel the assignments are valuable to their learning. So, I look to my left and see a rock; I look to my right and see a hard place.

I do want to end this week's entry on a positive note, however. Laurie is forever reminding those of us she mentors to "look for the positives!" This one is for her.

In one of my morning classes, I have a young girl who, throughout the quarter, was consistently tardy and ill prepared for class. Last week, Laurie was in the office when I sent this student down because of an altercation in class. It was not the first time I had had to send this student to the office, so Laurie brought the two of us together and played the role of mediator. Both my student and I had the opportunity to talk about what was going on in class. Then we worked to create some solutions for our problems.

In the two days since that meeting, the girl has come to class on time, taken notes, and completed her assignments. It would be unrealistic to think that everything will be perfect from now on, but I am hopeful that this student and I have made some headway in working through some of our difficulties. As Laurie warns us, there will be days when we take a step back from the forward progress we have made, but these last two days have proven to me that it is possible to have a peaceful coexistence with difficult students. Thank you, Laurie!

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Article by Kimberly Johnson
Education World®
Copyright © 2001 Education World

11/8/2001