Monday, June 12, 2006

Deadlines, Schmeadlines

I’ve always been a pussycat when it comes to due dates for my students’ assignments. Pretty much any excuse gets an extension and even without an excuse, students can still turn their papers in late with little, if any, penalty.

Part of the reason I allow this is that I want to avoid conflict and confrontation over whether any given paper was on time or not. I’m also genuinely interested in reducing stress in students’ lives; if someone needs a couple extra days (or even longer) to finish an assignment, why should I care?

But mostly, I just think deadlines tend to be artificial and arbitrary anyway, so what’s the difference if students adhere to them or not?

No doubt someone will say to me, “But Dave, in the ‘real-world,’ deadlines are a fact of life; you’re doing students a disservice to let them slide; they need to learn that they can’t get away with this sort of behavior on the job.”

My response is twofold: first, deadlines do slide all the time in the “real world;” every project you hear about is always over budget and timeline.

And second, more importantly, deadlines should be resisted, anyway; I’m sending students the important message that people shouldn’t succumb to the tyranny of the timeline. Something is done when it’s done, not when some made-up deadline says it is.

On the other hand, it bugs me to have to be correcting a few straggler’s papers on this Monday, the first day of summer vacation. I could be all waked-n’-baked but instead I’ve got to behave at least for a few more hours until all the latecomers get their work in. Nevertheless, I will try to assess their efforts without prejudice, even if this requires the setting aside the feeling that I’m being taken advantage of by those lazy good-for-nothings.

You see, it’s not that I don’t have my limits: it’s just that the deadline for crossing them keeps moving.


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