There will always be at least one student who asks for an extension. He or she will explain: I couldn’t figure out MS Word; I had to visit dad in jail; my car broke down; grandma caught the AIDS; someone lit my house on fire; my girlfriend, boyfriend, internet spouse, polyamorous partnership cell is pregnant; an Uber driver held me up; an Uber driver stole my hard drive while I was high; I got deported; my pants didn’t come back from the cleaners; I’m getting sent to a military academy in India; the deadline triggered my epilepsy; I’m dropping out; an Uber driver told me to drop out; there were locusts, columns of fire; I think you’re profiling me; Deuteronomy 18:10; this assignment is stupid.
Agree with everything. Grant the extension without argument. If he or she does the work, great, reduce the end-grade on the assignment and then maybe learning can continue. If the student still hasn’t done the work, he or she will explain: my cat got gastritis; I’m an indigo child; COVID; the assignment gave me gastritis; I’m leaving to become an Alaskan fishing boat hand, catalogue model, dog walker, Sufi mystic, fire watcher; I decided to live the novel; I won’t need these skills driving for Uber; you are so unfair; Isaiah 41:10; this assignment is stupid.
Agree with everything. Grant a second extension without argument. If he or she does the work, great, reduce the end-grade on the assignment again and then maybe learning can continue. If the student still hasn’t done the work, he or she will either never return to class or will buy a paper online. If he or she never returns to class, wish your student well on his / her new career as a munitions tester in Laos.
If he or she buys a paper online, read it carefully. Your research assignment will have been generated through intensive one-on-one work with each student (see Part 2: Night of the Living Assignment). Because you have avoided clichéd research paper topics (gun control, abortion controversy, pollution, beauty standards, Trump existing in a three-dimensional time-space continuum, homelessness, etc.) and you guided the students toward subjects specific to their lives, it will be very hard for them to buy papers that are on point.
In the end, desperate, they will turn in anything: Gas Grilling Techniques; The Mousetrap Scene in Hamlet; Gun Control is Good; Some People Say Abortion is Wrong; Cars Pollute Cities; Barbie Reinforces Negative Beauty Myths; Trump Is Stupid Or Is He, There is a Lot of Homelessness in the World. You will look at these (often horribly written) papers that reflect none of what you’ve covered in class and sigh.
He or she will attempt to explain and will fail. Then: “I really, really don’t want to be expelled.” Agree with this. Grant another extension without argument. Tell the student you will keep the fake paper on file and offer opportunity for the student to write a real one. 90% of the time, you will never see them again. The 10% of students who actually make the attempt are the students you really want to teach. Meet with them two or three times individually. Have them revise their work. Give them fair, reduced grades, but see this for what it is: growth.