Is it too much to ask that our students show some respect for their learning?

Needed to write down my thoughts on an incident in the classroom today.

It was time to hand in home learning task (which by the way is minimal compared to some other classes) so we went through the class list and those who had completed it brought their books up, those who had completed it online I already had, and those with excuses …gave them!

So one student passes in to me a crinkled, stained, messy piece of work.

I looked at it and what ran through my mind was… when I put so much effort into my job, spend night after night, weekend after weekend planning, researching, creating lessons that will engage and motivate….”should I have to accept this piece of work which showed complete disrespect for the learning being done as well as disrespect to myself”?


I found myself becoming enraged!! Was I expected to accept this piece of work which represented 7 days worth of effort?

NO… I decided that I was not going to accept it. So I put it back onto the students. Knowing that many of them had put in reasonable effort and done some great thinking about the task I asked them….If they were me, how would they feel? If they were me what would they do with it? If they were me what would they do about the whole situation?

The responses from the students were a lot harsher than I expected (although no harsher than what my own responses were). A fairly emotional discussion took place as we talked about the situation. Various recommendations were made which included:
Screw it up and throw it in the bin
Make the student concerned redo it in his own time
Not accept it and make the student do it again

While the discussion was going on amongst the class…. The student in question was, unbeknown to me, crying.

Oh no… Had I gone overboard? Had I taken the whole situation too far? Did I really need to involve the student’s peers in the situation? Could I have put my point across in a more sensitive way?

I am not sure. If I had accepted it then this becomes his standard. That standard is not my standard. Should we not have high expectations for everyone? Should we not expect a ‘minimum’ standard of presentation and demand that this IS the minimum of what is expected… Which ultimately means that if something does not meet these minimum expectations, there needs to be a conversation about WHY standards can’t be met. Surely if a student is valuing what they are learning they will want to present it in a reasonable way which shows this. Which makes me think… this student is not valuing what they are learning. Mmmm… is that my problem or the student’s problem? Have I not explained the purpose behind the task? Have I not made it ‘worth’ learning about therefore ‘worthy of the time needed?

I know I value my job and take pride in creating a classroom environment and a learning community which is supportive, engaging, motivating, busy, and fun. My thinking is that when I put so much effort into my work… Then why can’t we demand students to put effort into theirs. Like the quote says, however, maybe these students ARE okay with half the results.


I think sometimes we can be too soft… We let things go so we don’t have to be the mean horrible teacher who is then disliked or whatever. It sort of goes back to the concept of ‘grit’ which I discussed in a previous post. Kids need to ‘build grit’. This would be an excellent example of a student who is in need of ‘grit’. But like I queried in the post… by the time they get to us, is it too late to build grit?

I just hope that this student thinks carefully about the effort he puts into his next home learning task… and has learnt a lesson… that if you value what you are learning then show it in the way you present something…



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