Ask a Teacher: Do You Ever Make Exceptions to Rules?

Ask a Teacher: Do You Ever Make Exceptions to Rules?

By Mr. Toche

Q: Do you ever make exceptions to rules, such as late work or cell phone policies?  And if so, when?

A: It's a truism that nothing is certain but death and taxes. And that's how I feel about classroom rules. Really, there's no rule that can't have an exception. Of course, there'd better be a pretty good reason for handing in an assignment late or (especially) having a cell phone go off in class.

I've had people come to me requesting extra time because of the deaths of parents. I've also had people request a later deadline because they wanted to relax and not think about school when they were on family vacations.

Guess which requests are honored and which aren't.

Similarly, I've had people say they needed to have their phones handy because they were expecting calls from the police about robbery or identity theft investigations. And I've had people say they needed to be prepared to answer their phones during class because they were expecting a call back about a radio contest or that there was "important fraternity business."

Again, I don't think it's too difficult to imagine which ones of those situations were allowed and which ones were met with incredulous stares.

What's that, you say? Well, I just laid out a sane, reasonable approach to classroom rules. As you have probably encountered, some people do not have sane, reasonable approaches to arbitrary rules. So what then? Suppose you really need some extra time for an assignment, and you have what you think is a valid reason for the request, but your teacher/instructor/professor just doesn't see it that way. How can you address that sort of situation?

There's not much to do but try your best to get the work done on time. And if it's late, well, you have to accept the penalty. It's an unfortunate fact of life that some deadlines just can't be put off. It's arbitrary and it's unfair, but the same can be said about much in life.

I hate to end on a down note, but they can't all be inspirational columns.

Mr. Toche taught statistics, sociology, and human sexuality to college students for four years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He saw, learned, and experienced more horrors than you can well imagine in that time.

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Topics: teachers, homework, rules, ask a teacher, deadlines

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