Sunday, April 18, 2021

What's With Kids Who Hand Us Nothing?

I honestly don't understand why anyone would take the time to submit a blank page, or nothing whatsoever, on Google Classroom. I have to say, while I (relatively, at least) don't much like teaching online, I have made my classes easier than they have ever been. 

Because I've heard so many complaints about students being overburdened with homework, I've taken to doing it in class every second or third day. All my students have to do is write down the answers we've agreed upon in class, and that's 100%. I'm not sure what's more convenient than that.

I haven't given a test in over a year. I give writing assignments instead. Anyone who actually writes four paragraphs, if that's what I ask for, pretty much passes and usually does better. I've taken ten points off for late work. In the past, I probably wouldn't have accepted it at all. Despite this, students hand me nothing, and expect credit for it. Now this would probably be fine if I didn't, you know, read the stuff students give me. But they pay me to do that, so I do, even on a Sunday afternoon. 

Today I got three blank papers. One is from a student who usually does all the work. This student took the trouble of writing "Exercise One," "Exercise Two," and "Exercise Three" in big green letters. Maybe he thought that would be good enough. After all, I had said to do exercise one, two, and three, and who's really to say that this wasn't it? We all have different interpretations of what exercise means. I might take long walks, and you might go to some macho gym and lift weights and stuff. It's all exercise, right?

Another was from a student who doesn't usually do homework. Maybe, by saying it's blank and giving a zero, I'm discouraging that kid. Perhaps if I gave 100 for that, the students would hand me another blank paper for the next assignment. After all, isn't something better than nothing? Well, in this case I'm just not seeing it. Wasn't it Billy Preston who said, "Nothing from nothing leaves nothing"? Personally, I better understand students who just don't do homework and make no qualms about it.

I once had a student I'll call John. John was from China. He told a long story once about how rugged it was going to school in China. He said, "In China, homework is a mountain." All my other Chinese students nodded solemnly in agreement. Evidently, this was a saying. It really hit home to me somehow, I asked him, "How did you deal with that?' He said, "I just didn't do it." This provoked a lot of questions from the other Chinese students. "Didn't your parents kill you and stuff?" But there he was, proof positive you could survive that educational system without doing homework.

Now in my class, John never missed homework. Granted, my homework was not a mountain. Still, I had hoped I'd somehow found the secret sauce to touch kids who were otherwise untouchable. This year, I learned otherwise. 

I have another student, now, who is failing every class, and has been doing so all year. A few weeks back, he started attending the class. He even started handing me homework, albeit blank. I told him he could possibly pass, but he needed to start actually doing the work. The next time he handed me a blank paper, I called his parents. Sadly for him, I spoke their language. He handed in one homework assignment that contained work. Since then, it's back to submitting nothing on Google Classroom.

I don't understand it. What do you achieve by handing in nothing? There must be some sort of thing that motivates students to do it. But what keeps them doing it after you've made clear there's no point?

blog comments powered by Disqus