Do New Adjuncts Have "Sucker" Written Across Our Foreheads?


millerBy Melissa Miller, Ed.D., M.Ed.
Everyone, at some point or another, needs a deadline extension. 
Most schools have established late policies and each professor is then generally allowed to accept late work and deduct late points at their discretion. I think this flexibility is a necessary one of respect for the authority and wisdom of the professor to make judgments ‘in the field’ as needed. As a new adjunct, however, this has become another balancing act. What is an appropriate amount of time to accept late work? What are emergencies? When is all late work due? These are things that are very important yet almost impossible to plan for.
I’m sure veteran adjuncts have an entire file of hilarious, unbelievable, and head-shaking excuses for missed classes, late work, missing projects, etc…. Those of us new to this profession, however, still experience some shock and, yes, I’ll admit it, a little naïveté when it comes to student excuses for late work. I’m still in that idealistic stage where I (mostly) believe the excuses! When does this change? Is there an “aha!” moment, or is it just a slow realization that comes with experience? How do you know what to believe? What do you do when you know you are being lied to?
Your computer crashed? Oh I’m so sorry.
You had to work late last night? Okay, I remember working the late shift in college.
You can see where this is going. Do I have “sucker” written on my forehead? Or maybe it’s worse – maybe it says “new teacher?”
I’ve explained to my class that one way that I think about life is that we are on the “credit-debit system.” Here’s what I mean. As you go along, submitting your assignments on time throughout the semester, participating in class, being punctual, etc., you are depositing “credits” in to your metaphorical “account.” Then, when an emergency arises, you have sufficient credit to take a “debit,” and I will gladly afford you time, leniency, and understanding. Most students understand what I mean and operate successfully within this system. Sometimes, however, you get the students who continually overdraw their accounts!
How do students expect to make withdrawals when they haven’t made any deposits? Isn’t this Accounting 101? has the popular Daily Excuse feature to which faculty members submit their favorite student excuses for late work or missed class. Some days when I read this or hear from other teachers, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Obviously, I can’t change the behavior of all of my students. However, I have to ask, does the push-me pull-you relationship between students, professors and deadlines even matter?
About the New Adjunct: Dr. Melissa Miller completed her Ed.D. with an emphasis in Teacher Leadership from Walden University. She holds a M.Ed. from Mary Washington University and a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Virginia Tech. Dr. Miller’s professional and research interests include adult and online learning, professional development, and literacy. Presently, Dr. Miller works as an adjunct instructor and an evaluator, while also enjoying her role as a wife and mother.

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