When Kids Fail to Do Work: Corona Virus Edition

Posted March 20, 2020 by Graceful Serendipity in Career, Soap Box Moment, Teacher Life / 0 Comments

Grant me this soapbox moment.

Teachers discovered public praise this week, as parents attempted to adjust to life as a home school teacher. Based upon tweets, many were far from successful, however in Texas most districts have begun transferring their lessons online.

As you can imagine, teachers and administrators stress about the many sudden changes this platform requires. As a teacher, it is natural to question every single facet of this technology. The quality of instruction online, while not completely new to university education broke barriers for the K-12 set. With that comes questions, confusion, and the never ending cycle of ethical considerations using various apps and platforms that do not all align perfectly.

However…You Need to Hear This About Grading

What I venture to propose will be controversial to some. Even if you teach AP Language, even if you teach 6th grade science and know every kid in that household has access to a computer, even if you would be willing to bet me a Chick-Fil-A sandwich that your student chose not to do the work, based on refusal to do work prior…I’d still pass them.

What? How will this teach them personal responsibility?

Okay, I’d pass them with a 70.

I said it. I would not venture to fail a soul during this period. This is coming from a former teacher who taught Pre AP English II at a Title I school. I gave students every resource imaginable in order for them to complete their work. Choosing to ignore was unacceptable.

However, these are different times. My grading would have to change to reflect this crazy new world. At best, I’d give completion grades and high achieving students that went above and beyond, would get the grades they earned. The reason being is that during this time of crisis, many students are not prepared to emotionally handle this strange place we currently live in at the moment.

To Be Quite Frank…

As an adult, with a counselor background, this was my least productive week ever- having worked from home for the first time. Most of my stress centered on my elderly mother who lives with me, my husband who still has to go to work, and a county commissioner casually mentioning she won’t rule out a shelter-in-place order. If that happened, could he go to work? What will happen to our home? Even trips to pick up prescriptions are fraught with stress.

And this is the stress of an adult who is trained to teach others to destress.

Do we truly expect our students to be able to cope, if many of their families are losing jobs, benefits, and possibly God forbid, have sick relatives to deal with?

Rationale Behind Passing Kids This Semester:

  • Most households have one computer. What happens to those students with multiple siblings?
  • Some households will expect the oldest sibling to take care of the younger kids. When will this student have time to do school work?
  • Most elementary kids do not have smartphones.
  • For those households without computers, many middle and high school students rely on wifi at the school as they have no access at home to the internet.
  • For those households with one computer, many parents are now having to work at home. At what point should they give up their only source of income for a grade?
  • For households with parents out of work, it would be only natural for the older high school students to take on that burden by applying at local grocery stores and other low paying jobs. I’ve seen students do this, long before this crisis. We must accept the reality that teens bringing in money will be an expectation in some households.
  • For some students, even with all of the resources at their disposal, the stress of the Corona Virus is taking a toll on them. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. School work is the last thing they care about.
  • Some students simply will not learn well on an online platform, even with access to resources. Whether it be their learning style, or specific instructional needs be they ESL, SPED, or 504 related, this rollout is bound to produce subpar work by kids who are actually trying to do their work.

The Reality…

Will there be that older student that claims they were enjoying life and doing nothing? Of course. I guarantee it. Will there be that younger elementary student who was allowed to play and do nothing despite their access to resources? We know that child exists.

However, for every outlier, a kid is suffering. And while your younger students will be openly vulnerable, our middle schoolers and teens excel in bluffing about their emotions. Whether the year is 1920 or 2020, no teen wants to be the scared or stressed “loser”.

As a professional, you have the right to grade and give them the grade they earned.

But I’m asking you.

Just this once.

Let it go. Let them pass this semester. And should it continue until the start of a new school year, we’ll be better prepared. For now, we need to support them. That grade, that project, can wait. I promise.

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