How To Handle A Student Who Begs For A Second Chance

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A student comes to you and begs for a second chance. They swear that from now on things will be different.

They just need you to fix this one little grade, ignore their latest wee misbehavior, let them redo the test, essay, or project.

Just this once.

And in that moment, as they plead and promise and lay on the charm, you want so badly to give in. It feels right. It makes sense. Everyone deserves another chance, right? And the student will love you for it.

But you must not. Never, ever, ever.

Here’s why:

You’ll lose respect.

If you cave to even one student, you better allow the same lower standard for everyone else or it will come back to bite you.

Unequal application of rules and policies equals resentment, lack of trust, and the knowledge that you are an easy mark for manipulation. Plus, they won’t really love you for it.

You can be as kind and likable as a Golden Retriever, but if you let anyone off the hook through “the goodness of your heart,” your class will lose respect for you.

You’ll grow weaker.

It’s easier to draw a line for yourself and stick to it than it is to try to give in here and there on a case-by-case basis.

Knuckle under just once and chinks in your armor will begin to show, the steel growing soft and malleable. Saying no gets harder and harder.

Before long, you’re just another stressed-out pushover. Needy students pulling on your hem. Special requests coming out of the woodwork. Learning taking a backseat.

You’ll dilute your words.

With a reputation for lowering the bar, your words will lack punch. They’ll be devoid of urgency, meaning, and the power to get students moving, working, and listening.

You’ll be left to repeat yourself, raise your voice, count down from five, threaten, coerce, lecture, glare, and try to prove your toughness like every other struggling teacher. A tiger with the heart of a mouse.

Continue in this vein and not much of what you say will matter. Your rules, grading standards, and the like will be met with a yawn and a sardonic “whatever.”

The Solution

Say no before the student even finishes their sentence.

Yes, they’ll be disappointed. Some may even feign anger. But every time you say no is a lesson that will make them stronger. Remember, our goal as effective teachers is not just to get through the day.

It’s to impact students for a lifetime.

Further, sticking to your guns, doing what you say, and abiding by set-in-stone standards make teaching so much easier by removing a sea of predicaments and stressors.

It also engenders trust, respect, and likability. It supports social, emotional, and academic growth and maturity.

It draws more and more students into the deeply satisfying orbit of excellence, competence, responsibility, personal accountability, and true confidence.

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