It’s a simple assignment. Most of the time, I get 20 out of 23 on time. This is unacceptable to me. There are always excuses, usually from similar students. Their Internet is down. Their computer doesn’t work. They have basketball practice. Can they finish the assignment in the morning?
Last night, I received just 17. The end of the semester is upon us. Students are feeling tired. They’re slacking and feeling overwhelmed. The class no longer pops for them. Most of all, they’re dispirited. How can I be working so hard, they ask themselves, and not be making progress?
As a teacher, this is a tough spot to be in. I want to tell them the truth: You’re right, you’re not where you need to be. You must work harder. Academically, you’re soft, and your standards are too low. Get with the program. Toughen up.
This approach, however, may backfire. After all, many of my students believe they’re trying hard. This is the hardest they’ve tried before. They’ve received praise in the past for this amount of work, this level of scholarship. It’s possible that negative feedback right now may break them.
But I’m tired of being a cheerleader. I’m tired of managing unacceptable student behaviors. While I understand that it’s my job to meet my students where they are, I need to figure out a way to get all my students at least to the starting line — where they all do their work on time, where they avoid excuses, where they approach me rather than my having to approach them. It’s time to stop the enabling.
Therefore, I need to talk to them tomorrow morning. It’s important to tell them what I see and what needs to change. It’s important to be stern but not angry. It’s important to tell them that I care, and because I care, I can’t sugarcoat the situation. It’s important to tell them what’s unacceptable and that they need to rise from mediocrity.