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My son's teacher doesn't give back his work

By Kathy Glass, Consulting Educator


Our problem is that one of my son's teachers is terrible about posting his grades online. Actually, she is extremely slow at grading papers and projects at all. So, he can look at most of his grades online and know up to the day what his grade is and what he received on each item (test, homework, assignment, etc.). The problem is that without seeing his grades for her class, or receiving his graded work back from his teacher, he does not get a chance to make up any work that he has a lower grade on. My son strives for straight A's and he received his only B this whole year because he didn't have a chance to know his grade ahead of time and to re-do any work. This is extremely frustrating to both of us. What do you recommend?


I think you need to be flexible with your son adapting to this teacher's work style and realize that not all teachers approach grading or returning work in the same way or timeframe. Of course, there are certain expectations of all teachers such as meeting standards in each content area (e.g., math, science, etc.), but each teacher will have his or her own unique way of working in the classroom. You can compare this to teachers needing to differentiate their instruction to different types of kids. So here you have the role reversal of the kids adapting to different teacher styles.

In this particular situation, I think it would be appropriate for your son to

approach this teacher periodically and ask for an update on his grade average. As to whether he can "make up any work that he has a lower grade on," this will depend on the policy of the teacher. I am confident, though, that your son's teacher will be quite supportive to give him an update on his grades once it is requested.

Your son needs to adapt to this teacher's style. In life, there will be similar circumstances in which your son will have to adapt to others' styles, such as an employer, another teacher, a camp counselor, a group project leader. Being up front and honest can help him to meet the challenge directly of learning to work within someone else's rules and idiosyncrasies. View this as a learning opportunity for your son to approach the teacher in a non-threatening, honest way to get what he needs to be successful. Confronting others is a life skill that will only serve him well in the future.

Kathy Glass, a former middle school teacher, is an educational consultant and author focusing on curriculum and instruction. She wrote Curriculum Design for Writing Instruction: Creating Standards-Based Lesson Plans and Rubrics (© 2005, Corwin Press) and Curriculum Mapping: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Curriculum Year Overviews. Currently she is writing a book with Carol Tomlinson and other authors of the Parallel Curriculum Model. She can be contacted through her Web site.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

"I have to agree with the other comments, to simply say you have to adapt to the teacher's style is one thing but to expect it in the real world is another - Especially if you want to get anywhere in life. If you have a employer, project manager, co-worker or counselor that is slow at performing then you do something about it. I'm not saying to go off the wall, but the first one is to approach the teacher and ask that they return grades in a timely manner. If you get attitude or no improvement, then go to the principal. Same thing in real life, if you are in a project and your manager is not performing. Approach them like I said above, and if they don't either go to their manager or HR. I've seen it way to many times in the past where an under developing manager will throw their employees under the bus and have them fired instead. Be proactive, don't bend over and take it just because they can't do their job. "
"Kathy Glass, you must be kidding. Our child's homework is his and our way of knowing what is being taught and what our child has learned. The grade must be important to the school or it would not be given -- if it is important to the school it is important to our child. Our child's teacher loses the homework -- on more than one occasion in addition to not returning homework for weeks and not posting the grades. If our child turns a paper in ONE DAY LATE the grade is cut in half. Period. A 100% turns to an F if one day late. We work hard to help our children do their best. The teacher is slacking and really needs to ask for help and be accountable. The teacher is in this case is also 'not teaching very well' as many of the kids have dropped the class because of the poor teaching style and the lack homework getting returned before a test. I cannot believe that you recommend that the kids and parents actually tip toe around the teacher and enable her or him to short change more students next year. Our kids work hard and deal with bullies, stress, 4 hours of homework a night and when all is said and done - they put in a longer 'work day' than most of us do at our jobs. Catch the bus at 7:00 a.m. get home at 3:00 P.M. snack and do homework for 3 to 4 hours every night and on weekends. "
"B.S. The teacher is slacking at work. Write an e-mail to the principal and the school board that will light a fire under her arse. In life, adopting a 'style' where we don't do our jobs has consequences."
"I completely disagree with this advice. While it is advisable for students to learn to adapt to different teaching styles, grading homework is NOT the time for it. Homework is given so that students can practice what was learned during class and to reinforce those lessons. Without the feedback of graded assignments, how are students to know whether or not they are have actually learned the material? Perhaps they misunderstood something, did the entire homework incorrectly (reinforcing the mistake), but thought they understood it because they never got feedback on the assignment until it was too late. That's not a difference in 'teaching styles' that is just downright poor teaching! That being said, the parent writing this question should not expect that her child will be allowed to re-do homework that was done incorrectly. That is not the purpose of graded homework."
"Kathy- Why do you side with the teacher? I had this problem with Mrs. Ferris a Math teacher at Somers Middle School, NY. If a child is required to be ready to take a test by a certain date why is it okay for the teacher not to hand it back to the child by a certain date? Why aren't the teachers held accountable? THEY ARE PAID!!!! How do the children know how they are progressing in the class without grades? (Three tests were given in advanced math-which requires the student to retain an 85-without return to the students.)They might as well learn the material from a book! It's interesting Somers School district didn't think this was an issue either-BAD!!!!!!!!!!!!"
"You know what?...I had the same problem. My child is a straight a A's student. On one of my child progress report, there was a B grade on her math's grade (geometry). I talk to her and try to see why she got a B grade on her progress report. She explained to me that the teacher was not teaching very well and assignment paper was not return to her so she can study. So to a point I was thinking of getting a tutor for her but then I realized. Hey, wait a minute here. She one of smartest in class and the teacher can't just not give out an A's. I explained to her every teachers are different and she just have to adapt to teacher's rules. Some teachers are horrible, but there are always a way to get throught them. I emphazied on that so much and point it out to her. It's a process they will have to expect in the future, the draw back of having one of those teacher(s) and get a lower grade is lessen your child chance of getting into a good college. But, look at the posi! tive point of it. Your child have to deal with those teachers will strenghten their abilities to deal with college and real world."
"I agree with the previous poster. And I had the exact same situation with a math teacher in my son's seventh grade middle school. I believe that all teachers whatever their so called 'style', should post scores and review tests with the students promptly. It is a basic student managment skill and should be a 'best practice' for teachers. Whether a student does poorly or very well on tests, tests represent a vital feedback loop for the student as well as the parent. Reviewing and learning from test results should be the focus of opportunity in a course, not adjusting to the teacher's poor management skill or basic laziness in some cases."
"That's a poor answer. I had a similar issue except the teacher was putting the grades online, at first, and my child had failing grades in tests/quizzes but A's in the other grading categories. When asked to see the tests/quizzes so my child could see what to improve the teacher never gave them back. How is a child and a parent supposed to work with that. That's just poor management and that teacher is doing the kids a disservice by NOT providing feedback. I certainly hope this type of unprofessional behavior is supposed to be accepted by parents and children. We need to teach our children not to settle for less. As for asking the teacher about their progress. We did that and she had NOTHING of substance to offer."