It hurts me to deny a student’s request for an exception to class policy – to be able to turn in a late assignment, or to make up a missed quiz, and the like. My premise is that whatever the reason, the student is telling the truth and is experiencing real anguish. At our first meeting I always state that one of my goals is to be fair to all students so please don’t ask for a favor that I cannot offer the entire class.
One time a student was asking to turn in a late assignment. “It would not be fair to the other students,” I said. “I don’t know what sacrifices your classmates have made to get their assignments in on time.” The student replied that the other students would be okay if she got credit for a late assignment. At this point another student who was overhearing this after class-period conversation said, “How do you know that?” My sentiments exactly. I upheld the written late assignment policy.
This is the intellectual reason why I am so rigid about class policies. However there is another more personal reason – I want to honor my father. My father, Roger E. Hatton, was a really nice guy. He worked hard, deeply loved a rather difficult, at least from my point of view, woman (my mother), and was as honest as they come. I never heard him complain. His lab invented a real moneymaker for his company but politics shunted him aside. He had an ulcer as a comparatively young man and had to give up his beloved beer. He never bragged or raised his voice. I think that I am so firm about class rules, because there are some people like my father in my classes – people who do their work on time no matter what the struggle, who don’t complain and follow the rules. I know its counter to the Darwinian paradigm, but I really think the meek should inherit the earth.
Note: I generally don’t all let the entire class to vote on exceptions to class rules or other matters – at least by a show of hand. At my students’ age peer pressure is very powerful and some students will end up voting against their best interests. Besides, changing the rules in the middle of a game is not fair to those persons who chose to start the game governed by the original conditions.