“Your paper is due Sunday, by midnight.”
You’ve probably heard this many times. You may have even said it to your students when assigning a paper or writing project. I’ve said it many times. It’s a pretty standard mantra when you work with assignments online. But, lately I’ve stopped saying it. I stopped doing this when I realized that “Sunday, by midnight” or really any time “at midnight” seems both random and insane.
The only good reason to assign a paper to be due at midnight is if you plan on grading them starting at 12:01. There are probably few teachers, instructors, or professors chomping at the bit, waiting for the exact moment the new day rolls round, just so they can indulge themselves in a midnight binge of student essays.
So, why do we assign them due at midnight? Even worse than midnight on Sunday would be Friday by midnight. That means I plan on dedicating my weekend to grading papers. Many people do this. I’ve done this. But no one enjoys it. So, why keep doing it?
Lately, I’ve made my assignments due by class time, during the week. Students seem to really appreciate this, especially if they have a class later in the day. This due date makes sense because it marks the same time that students would have handed in their papers in any other class. It also marks the transition from the old topic to the next topic.
I’m still not going to grade them the moment class ends, but they are turned in at a more reasonable time, one which the students prefer. I have them at a reasonable time and I can grade them at a non-ungodly hour, during the week. So, hopefully, no longer will I be burning the midnight oil grading papers or wasting away my weekends jack-hammering at a virtual stack of papers. Or at least, so I say. I don’t like to make students wait for my feedback, and every so often, I will be pushing into the double digit late hours. Still, my goal is to create a better work-life balance and make a better atmosphere of time for my students.