“What can I do for extra credit?” asks a underachieving student who is trying desperately to regain a passing grade just days before report cards are issued.
My reply: “Nothing.”
I don’t offer extra credit, not in the usual sense, that allows students who’ve consistently failed to produce the required assignments either promptly or satisfactorily. No, I find bonus points that reward appropriate behavior and diligent work ethics.
The Bane of Extra Credit
Seekers of extra credit have learned that if they do little to no work over the course of a grading period, they can approach certain teachers by creating illusory emergency situations that are often founded on spurious claims of having had difficulty with past assignments.
Such scenarios of the martyred victim of supposedly poor instruction create gratuitous and redundant work for the teachers who have already supplied ample opportunities to raise grades. A seeker of extra credit materializes at a teacher’s desk just days before report cards are issued
This is not to say that there don’t exist some individuals whose diligent performances cannot save them from their own lack of understanding. Truly, some students-those who’ve applied themselves to all of the tasks honestly-are unable to understand the lesson or assignment. These individuals need extra opportunities to make the grade. That is true.
“Infamous” may be too harsh a word to describe the student who has slacked off during the grading period, expecting to be able to whip out a few extra credit crossword puzzle pages, in order to save the grade, but it’ll suffice for now. Infamous individuals who set out to do little work during the semester are quite disgruntled with me toward the end of the grading period because my stock response deters these acts of infamy.
Bonus Points: My Standard Response
Bonus points are designed to accentuate the positive side of behavior: promptness, neatness, and politeness, enforcing the idea behind a good work ethic.
When an assignment bears a particular deadline, bonuses are available to anyone who submits their work early, especially if they email it the night before the due date. In our charter school, all homework–regardless of grade and subject–is due before homeroom. While that was quite an adjustment in this inaugural year of implementation, bonus offerings for even earlier submissions prompted students to consider the value of time.
I am a control freak (yes, in charge of tomorrow’s leaders!), and I am particular about little things like dotted “i”s, crossed “t”s and headings at the tops of papers! Name, date, and period seem so inconsequential to many students. I find that offering bonuses to those who already take care of business is more effective than penalizing certain individuals who may or may not realize how important these tidbits of info are to me. Neatness ought to be a foregone conclusion–the norm for work submitted to the teacher. It is not.
A growing number of students feel entitled to certain privileges simply because they have come to the school campus. No research will show this, but it’s apparent nonetheless. Offering bonuses to students who shed this air of entitlement has become the norm for me. Whether for promptness, neatness, or politeness, I have found that bonuses offered upfront encourage students to exercise a greater sense of humility, diligence, and good character, more so than the students of years past who slacked off during the course of a grading period and came crying for extra credit to fix what they had broken.
Bonus points are an excellent addition to any grading system.