On occasion, students will appeal to my sense of mercy before (or usually after) a deadline. Death in the family, surgery, illness and accident get my sympathy fairly quickly, but are not commonly invoked in such appeals. Generally, students will tell me that they simply didn’t have the time. This annoys me. Are they claiming to be caught in a warp in the space-time continuum that results in six-day weeks or 22 hour days? I understand that students are like most people in that they live very busy lives, but claiming not to have the time is a lie and I’d prefer them to be honest with me and with themselves.
Imagine two hypothetical students.
Student A: “I’m so sorry my project is late, I’m just so busy there wasn’t any time. Can you give me an extension?”
Student B: “Please accept my assignment with my apologies. I found that I had more commitments than I had time last week. I’m struggling in Organic Chemistry and needed to spend extra time studying for my exam this week. Since IP&T 286 is a 1-credit course, I decided that the project could wait an extra day. I will understand if there is a penalty for lateness.”
Though not explicitly stated, student A is claiming that the situation [the late work] was beyond his control. Student B is an acknowledging the choices he made to create the situation. I am willing to flexible; I want to be flexible, but I want students to learn responsibility for their own actions. Student B is learning to conciously set priorities in their life, a skill I wish all of my students would learn.
I believe that on a daily basis, most of us have the time to do most of the things we want to do. The catch is that we have to be careful about what we want to do. Time is a constant; it is the activities with which we fill our time that are variable. Since January, I’ve had to remind myself of this truth on a regular basis. When I feel that “I don’t have time,” I remember that I chose to take a temporary full time job in addition to two part time jobs. I may feel pretty solidly booked, but I have to acknowledge that I still have time to do the things I want to do, even if it requires me to to stop wanting to do something else.