The Forgiveness Clause

I recently gave my students the journal topic of coming up with their best excuse for not having their homework in class.  The responses that involved my class went along the lines of aliens, pterodactyls and other dinosaurs, the FBI, and someone’s backpack being the Bermuda Triangle.  The last one really amused me because the writer went on to say that I stuck my 10 foot long scarf that I knitted into the backpack to prove it would not disappear.  It didn’t. 

But it also shows that the kids get what I am doing – I am not going ballistic over one homework assignment.  I try to handle these situations with a sense of humor.  Typical conversations can go something like this:

Student:  I don’t have my homework.

Me:  The alien syndicate that kidnaps homework got it?

Student:  Ummm…yeah.  (looks relieved)  How did you know?

Me:  I am good like that.  If you hide your homework in a folder in your backpack as soon as you finish it, the aliens cannot find it.  They are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, which is why they are after homework. 

This allows me to do two things:  let the student acknowledge that he or she does not have the homework in a “no blood no foul” kind of way, and it allows me to gently remind that student that this could have been prevented with some basic organization. 

There is no sense in going off on kids if they miss something little.  They are already driven to be perfect, and it is more normal for them to be imperfect.  I have had kids dissolve into a pool of sobs over a single homework assignment that will honestly be dropped, as the lowest daily grade is dropped each grading period. Missing a daily grade will not keep this student out of Harvard, I promise.  It is the forgiveness clause, and it is okay to use it. 

As grown-ups, we need to remember that it is also more normal for us to be imperfect. We will mess up on some of the little things.  We will lock our keys in the car, burn popcorn in the microwave, forget our lunch, miss putting a stamp on one Christmas card in the stack, or miss putting sugar in our coffee.  In the big scheme of things, it will be okay.  In fact, it is okay to approach these things with a sense of humor because this is really not worth having a meltdown.  We are simply human. 

Some days will be bad…really bad.  But it is all in how you allow yourself to handle the situation that makes all of the difference in the world.  It is the forgiveness clause, and it is okay to use it. 

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