This morning, as I began checking off which students turned in their first novel journals, an assignment due yesterday, I started to get increasingly agitated. This was just looking at the formatting, which is not even included in the assessment, but it was included in the instructions.
So what do I do? It is inappropriate to deduct points for papers submitted in pencil rather than in ink or typed, as I requested. I also do not like deducting points because the header is incorrect, although for this assignment, the header listed book, author, and number of pages read, all of which are important. However, the other irritant, papers that did not have paragraphing, is absolutely something that could be marked down, and was actually a part of the rubric.
Rather than get my blood pressure up, I opened up my drawer, took out my REDO* stamp (a first for this year), and started stamping away.
When the students came into class, I told them how irritated I was with the quality of work handed in and rather than complaining about how impossible they were with their other teachers during lunch or starting to hate them a little, I decided to just have them redo the assignments. No, I wasn't mad. They weren't quite in trouble yet, but they also had no choice but to resubmit the assignment because until they do, it is recorded in the gradebook as an incomplete, which I count as an F grade.
They took it maturely. I saw a few light bulbs go off when I articulated why I had been expecting multiple paragraphs. (I'm starting to have doubts about their organizational abilities!) Nobody argued that they had turned in their best work, and in fact, several looked rather sheepish when I approached them with their papers saying, "Formatting aside, is this really your best work? Do you think you might want to look at the overall quality before you turn it in again?" Thank goodness not one student groaned at the thought of having to redo an assignment--that would have ignited my ire for sure. Still it surprised me that there wasn't at least one.
I have a pretty good group of students this year, but I think they are starting to lose momentum. I don't blame them for testing the waters to see how little they can get away with. It's a good lesson for all of us today. I spent most of the day returning the assignments to be redone when I could have spent time scoring the assignments--an exasperating waste of time if you look at one way. I hope that this small act sets a new concept in class: do it well or do it over.
*I had this stamp made at VistaPrint. They often offer "free" supplies and you pay the postage. A lot of teachers have blogged about creative ways to use this company. Do a search--you'll see!