No, I will not give you an extension on the assignment!

The paper is due tomorrow and I haven’t started working on it. I just discovered that I can’t find enough references. I know the professor said to line up the references up front, but I started writing with only a couple of references. What to do? I can’t skip my other classes because I have a buncIMG_2689h of exams this week. I guess I’ll just ask for an extension. She seems nice, after all.

We’ve all been in this kind of crunch. We know the options. Work too hard, skip sleep, eat poorly, throw one exam under the bus to get a decent grade on another one. What or who is going to give? How long does it take students to get a planner and organize their time so nothing is entirely neglected?

One of the reasons I do not give extensions except for the required, documented medical ones is that I feel they go to those most comfortable with the system, to those who feel entitled, that their poor planning is my emergency. I think about the students who put it on themselves and just turn in what they have. If there is an extension to be given, there should be a good reason and it should go to the entire class. As I recall, Hurricane Ike was a valid reason for extensions. Hurricane Rita was not.

Besides being preferential, another reason against extensions is how they throw the whole class off. If you are teaching in an active learning way, then there will be a lot of assignments and a lot of interaction. My class has 8 assignments, some involving commenting on other student’s work and that is not even counting the day we teach high school students or the 12 quizzes.

I suppose getting work done on time is one of those grown-up skills we need to help our students toward, by having them see the consequences of failing to turn in work. Extensions let the few manipulate the system to their benefit, but it is only temporary. So, turn those papers in on time!



About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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