My principal is a firm believer in second (and third, and fourth, and a million) chances. This extends to both students and staff, as I know I've pushed him to his limit of tolerance on many occasions, and he's still able to put up with me. He stresses it most with our kids, though. The need for retakes, reteaching, rewrites, and do overs are part of his core beliefs about middle school education.
In my first few years of teaching, I bristled at this. Second chances make kids lazy! They'll take advantage of us! They should have learned it the first time! This is exactly why this generation is so soft! There are no do overs in the real world!
As with many beliefs and actions from my early years of teaching, I cringe when I reflect back. What an idiot. Of course there are do overs in the real world. Adults get more do overs than anybody.
You didn't pass your driver's test on the first (or third) try? That's okay. You can take it again.
You don't marry the right person? That's okay. You can divorce and do it again (if you want).
The U.S. Constitution isn't in step with modern times? That's okay. We can amend it.
You typed the wrong version of they're/there/their on a Facebook post when you were trying to look intelligent? That's okay. There's an edit button so you can rewrite.
You didn't score as high as you'd like on a standardized test to get into college, grad school, receive state licensure, etcetera? That's okay. You can pay the fee and do it again as many times as you need to.
You don't like the career you've chosen for yourself? That's okay. You can change and switch to something else.
You didn't get your taxes in on time? That's okay. You can get an extension.
You made a mistake one day at work? You're fired! No, wait. Most likely, you'll have a warning before that happens.
The possibilities for fresh starts and second chances are endless. Yet for some reason, adults think we are the gatekeepers of second chances. We think we have to harden kids up and punish them for needing more than just one attempt because otherwise... Otherwise what? They'll be prepared for an adult world that's full of second chances and do overs? They'll realize that we screw up too, and then the curtain of adult perfection will be pulled back and there will be widespread chaos?
The mentality that some teachers, schools, and parents have about do overs is silly. Restricting kids' ability to relearn or redo something doesn't toughen them up or teach them an important life lesson. If anything, it reinforces negative behavior and works against the goal of learning. You can never make something better if you missed your one chance, so don't even think about putting in the extra time and effort to do it right!
The battle over second chances is one where I stand firmly on the side of kids against adults. I lump it into my most hated category of adult behavior: holding kids to higher standards than we hold ourselves. Hypocrites are never attractive, and it's much uglier when we do it in the guise of what's best for kids. Teaching developing humans that it's not okay to start again, that growing and changing is limited to a certain acceptable time frame, and that there is no forgiveness; this is horrible for society. Don't use the "harsh reality of the real world" argument with me; the real world operates in shades of gray, and holding kids to a black and white standard in school doesn't magically help to prepare them for real life. (School doesn't prepare people for real life anyway; it only gives us skills and knowledge that might come in handy when experiencing real life teaches us how to prepare for real life.)
I still have due dates for work in my class, and I still assign grades according to school requirements. Major papers can be rewritten if the student comes in for an extra writing conference with me, and we tackle the highest area of need in that piece of writing. Participation can be earned back by sending me emails or coming in to have a one on one conversation.
There are many students who don't take advantage of these opportunities, and it can be frustrating. I advocate for their ability to redo, and they don't do it. But at least I've made it a possibility. At least I haven't slammed the door in their faces. I'm not one more adult telling them they can't have a second chance because I think it will teach them something other than how to be a crabby adult who's unforgiving.
Teenagers are infuriating. I know, because I work with them every day. I know, because I was one once, and I'm not going to hold my students to a standard that I couldn't have possibly passed at their age.
Second chances aren't the problem with kids these days. The problem is our inability as adults to grant children the same amount of grace we would have wanted in our own teen years.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.