A thoughtful professor once told me: “always err on the side of mercy.”

I’d abused a gratuitously lax due date; he instructed me to remember his words when future students plead sad cases.

As a first-year teacher, this motto seemed soft.  Students would trample over me unless I offered rigid due dates and punishments for missing them.

I showed little mercy. I had missed the point entirely.

The idea is to treat students as humans with challenges, responsibilities and lives. Knowing them and speaking to them gives me some insight into when students may truly need more time to get things right, and when they are pushing it.

Am I naive? Might students take advantage after experiencing leniency once?

Probably yes, and some will.  It is my responsibility to maintain high expectations, while still treating students as humans.

And if I’m wrong, I’d rather err on the side of mercy.


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