I have a student named Jinwon. Jinwon has never done homework, that I can recall. When he was new to me, he would give excuses, but eventually he ran out of excuses. He just would shrug and say, “Sorry, Teacher,” now.
I have even made him stay extra time, sometimes – which is something I rarely do, because I feel it’s a fundamentally unfair practice, since some parents have “Do Not Make Stay” instructions attached to their kids. I don’t think it’s good for the kids to see their peers getting differential treatment. I know, right… I’m a communist or something.
Anyway, Jinwon will only write the most desultory things, even when I’ve made him stay. He just doesn’t like to do stuff.
Then, the other day, he seemed quite proud. He claimed to have done his homework. Now… I make the students email their essays to me. I like having an electronic copy. I had not received any email from Jinwon, so I told him. He showed me on his phone, where he’d recorded my email address. He’d gotten it wrong – proof, I suppose, that after a year of knowing him, this was, indeed, the first time he’d attempted to send me his homework.
He asked if he could call his dad, to re-send the essay (I guess it was on the computer at home). I was pleased immensely that he was showing such initiative, and I also began to finally believe he really had done his homework, and wasn’t just inventing an elaborate excuse.
He got on his phone and called his dad. He talked for a moment, stepping out of the classroom. He came back, looking crestfallen. “My dad said to call later.”
“Why?” I asked, wondering if this was, in fact, just an excuse after all.
“He’s at the police station,” he said, showing what seemed quite believable concern and doubt.
“Really!? Why is he there?” I asked. “Is he OK?”
“I don’t know,” the 8th grader replied, with a distracted look. I think he was genuinely surprised.
“Maybe he didn’t do his homework,” I joked, inappropriately. Jinwon laughed, but it was a bit forced. I wasn’t sure I should have made that joke. I don’t know his family’s circumstances.
If this was a “dog-ate-my-homework” ruse, I was beyond annoyed – I was impressed. But actually, I don’t think it was.
Today, two days later, Jinwon sent his essay via email. First time, after 1 year. I felt glad. I praised him profusely, which confused his peers, I think, since they all do their homework every week, and get far less praise.
[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]