The first full week of January was a big one for me. I was rested and recovered after two full weeks off from all my teaching, I was teaching my favorite classes, and I became a Grandmother for the first time. Due to the magic of teaching online, I was able to be there through 17 hours of labor and not miss a beat at work. I am not sure I am proud to say that.
The first call from my son came in at 1am telling me they were thinking it was baby day. By the second call at 4 a.m., it was pretty probable it was the day. The parents-to-be headed to the hospital and I told them I would be there soon.
Like every trip I make, I packed my Verizon card, my MacBook, and my USB drive collection. The hospital was less than 10 minutes from home, but having given birth myself a couple of times, I knew this was going to be a long day. I arrived around 8 a.m., took some time with the anxious parents-to-be and then settled into the waiting room with my computer. To my amazement, when I logged on, I found four wireless networks available for my use at the hospital. My first thought was here is another location I could come to for Internet if mine goes down at home. My second thought was that I would be able to work should I ever end up sick and in the hospital. My third thought was that I have issues, big issues! Why was I so worried about work on this special day in my life?
Was the intent for online faculty to really be able to teach anywhere? Are we really supposed to be online while we are sick? Should we be checking into class on our vacations? The answer to that question depends on the school you teach for. I know I have taught through severe illness for a for-profit that has strict feedback deadlines. I also taught for that same school through my last vacation with my husband. If the faculty are really teaching through illness, vacations, and family events, do we lose all empathy for our students personal issues and illnesses? Do we grade fairly in those circumstances?
I work for three different universities, so I have three different policies to follow. I have one employer with very strict late policies that must be followed. Work is docked 10% per day and cannot be turned in more than four days late. In some ways I really like the policy. I am not the bad guy, the university is. There is no room for arguments, for either the students or faculty. The faculty too are held to strict deadlines on feedback.
The other two universities allow me to set my own policies. I try to be fair to the students in these policies, but I also try to be fair to myself. I, like I am sure all other faculty, prefer work is turned in on-time. I feel that my grading is much more fair if I am doing all of it at one time. That way the entire class gets rested grading, tired grading, or whatever the current emotional, state I am in. If we are honest with ourselves, we know we grade differently depending on many different factors. If students submit late work, I am grading it in a different state and it is less fair.
At the schools where I can set my own late polices, I am probably less sympathetic to students who turn in late work due to illness or family issues since I myself work through these issues. Is it fair to reflect my personal work ethics onto students and expect them to work through illnesses and issues? I am not sure of the answer.
Back to my grandson’s birthday; I spent the entire day at the hospital. I took shifts in the birthing room and the waiting room. While in the waiting room, I graded papers and updated weekly grades. I finished all my grading at 5:00pm and took my computer out to the car. Little man was born at 5:45 and I was one of the first to hold him after his parents, I was there for my family. My student’s grades were finished before my deadline, I was there for my students. For some reason, my students seemed very satisfied with their scores. This was a good day.