Things I Know 127 of 365: The real world accepts late work

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

– Douglas Adams

Jabiz called me out this morning.

He didn’t mean to, but I’m glad he did. Each of his assertions was incorrect. I haven’t written 124 posts. Neither have I written a post each day since January 1.

Let me explain before you give up on this experiment all together.

This is my 127th Thing I Know. I realize yesterday’s post was labeled “124 of 365,” and there’s a reason for that.

I can’t count. Well, I can’t keep count. If you were to comb the archives, you’d find two 63s and two 94s. I’m not sure how it happened, but every TIK from March 6 on has been a day or two off. I’ll be going back and correcting them, but it’s going to take some time to individually rename half of the posts I’ve written this year.

The second inaccuracy was the claim that I’ve written one post per day. There were a few days over the last couple of weeks that got away from me. From being on the river to writing narratives to entering grades to report card conferences, my days got away from me.

I’m not sure anyone would have wanted to know what I knew in those few days. At least two of the posts were begun in end-of-day exhaustion only to result in me wake finding an open laptop on my stomach after I had passed out in bed.

I counted this weekend. May 10 is the 130th day of 2011.

I owe me some posts.

They’re coming.

No matter whether anyone else cares, my brain won’t sit right until this is all back on track.

What’s interesting to me is my lack of freak out. I could be rambling on and on to myself that I’ve lost the purity of the project or that writing more than one post in a day to catch up is cheating.

I’m not doing any of that.

It will get done, and the missing posts aren’t missing because of sloth or apathy.

Life needed me to prioritize school ahead of writing and then sleep ahead of writing. I obliged.

Today, a student got to my first period class late. We were just finishing up a vocabulary quiz. At the beginning of the year, my policy was that any student missing during the quiz would not be allowed to make up that portion of the quiz.

“Get here on time if you’re think it’s an unfair policy, and you’ll never have to worry about it,” I said.

The tardy student raised his hand once he’d taken his seat.

“Can I make up the quiz tomorrow during lunch?”

“Where were you?”

“I just got to school.”

“Why were you late?”

“I woke up late and then had to catch the train.”

“You can make it up Thursday at lunch.”

Then, I walked away.

I could have lectured him on the importance of punctuality or restated the policy, but that’s not what he needed at the time. The student was visibly frazzled and stressed by getting to class late and missing the quiz. Adding to that would have accomplished nothing.

If he makes a habit of it, we’ll talk.

I’ve been late to meetings and missed deadlines outside of self-imposed blogging deadlines. I’ve felt the frustration of falling short of the expectations of others and myself.

In those moments, it wasn’t the people who lorded the hegemony over me who made me want to work harder the next time. It was those who looked closely to see what I needed and responded from a place of care.

If I ever took advantage of their empathy, they once again responded caringly and called me on my actions, helping me learn lessons I didn’t necessarily want to learn but needed to.

I once taught with a teacher who accepted no late work and allowed no make-up work, citing the real world in her reasoning.

“When these kids get into the real world, they’re going to have bosses who don’t let excuses and tardiness fly.”

I’ve been in the real world for a few years now, and it’s not nearly as cut and dry as my colleague made it out to be.

There are times when deadlines are hard and fast, not to be taken lightly. Other times, life piles up and we’re forced to make choices. Then there are those moments when we make the wrong choices and firm understanding, not berating and belittling, is what’s called for.

I am reminded of this sentiment as I catch up on my writing. I will remember it again, Thursday, as I administer the make-up quiz.

6 thoughts on “Things I Know 127 of 365: The real world accepts late work

  1. I was (and am) one of those terrible, procrastinating perfectionists. I turned many assignments in late and the ones that were on time were probably done the night before. I was the kid that would research and research and let my mind wander on a topic without focus until I got a panic attack thinking about the bibliography notecards that needed to be written and the outline. I appreciated teachers that could see through my craziness to the well-intentioned but frazzled student underneath. When I got into the “real world” after college and began work as a newspaper reporter at a business journal, it wasn't the fear of being fired that kept me at the office late, pounding out copy to meet Wednesday's deadline. It was the fear of letting down the team – of knowing that someone else would have to fill the hole where my story was supposed to be. Just thinking of that was enough to keep me in my chair typing even when everyone else had gone out for happy hour.

    • My time as a journalist formed my understanding and feelings about deadlines as well.My editors asking where my copy was, my fellow reporters enjoying their bylines above the fold, feeling a story was so timely that I needed to get it out – these all motivated me to do my best work.I wonder how I can recreate these elements in my classroom.

  2. Ha! I think @6b2efd8a540b5323bb053997bfacf160:disqus will now be known as the “Lord of Hegemony” Seriously though Zach, I was coming from a place of awe and respect. I know you know that so I won't say much more, except that I understand your need to get it right. I was doing a 365 dailyshoot assignment, I got to 90 something, missed a few days while I was in Vietnam and couldn't find a way to get back into. Project dead. Guilt a live and well. It's funny how I preach this loosey goosey lifestyle, but I often find myself shackled by these self imposed rules. It's as if tI am really a bit scraed of the chaos and need the structure. I just think it is great that you have made such an effort to keep this project going. I once decided to write a haiku a day…I wrote 572 then realized I was being way to OCD and attached to the words and teh process, so I deleted them all. No record no trace nothing. Like the sands of a Mandala. Somtimes we need rules and structure to get us going, but sometimes we need to just let go and unattach oursleves from our neurosis.

    • Jabiz,I totally felt the respect there. Any criticism was mine. (That's usually the way, right?)What about starting the photo project at 90-something now? Who says they need to be consecutive? One of the pieces I most liked from Dave Bruno's “The 100 Things Challenge” was his admittance early on that the challenge was his and subject to his rules.When I was writing in January, I worked amazingly hard to get my posts in before midnight. That first day I posted after midnight and the world didn't end, I realized the subjectivity of it all. It's my goal. I set the rules.Today, I'll be writing two more posts. After that, I'll be caught up. Somewhere in the next 200+ days, I'm sure I'll fall behind again.Still, I'll get there. By Day 365, I'll have 365. Life will happen and I'll adjust.I wish the haiku were still there. I wish I could see them. I understand why they're not, but I wish they were still around.Thanks for keeping me thinking.- Zac

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