"Can I Get An Extension?"

Veronika Valia

“Make sure kids did their best on assignments and if they did and aren't ready to turn them in, give them the extension.”

When it comes to the controversial topic of extensions, everyone, from teachers to students, has their own opinion. For most students, their opinions tend to be in line with each other, with most students appreciating a momentary reprieve from a mounting workload or a couple extra hours of sleep. 

But as I’ve learned through my investigation, depending on the student, how useful the extension is tends to vary. For some students, extensions offer the opportunity to go above and beyond with a certain assignment and turn in something they are exceptionally proud of. For some, it allows them to simply get said assignment done and move on with their lives, and for some, it only worsens their dire habit of procrastination that put them in the position of needing an extension in the first place. 

But we know this. We know that in general students tend to appreciate extensions, regardless of where that extension leads them to be in a couple of days: happy with a product, or contemplating emailing the teacher a second time, asking for an extension on the extension, as I may or may not have done while writing this article.

However, for teachers, extensions are far more controversial. Although I can only speak for myself, most students that I spoke with tend to think that teachers hate giving out extensions. That by asking, we’re inconveniencing them, going to make them mad, or that somehow, the simple request is going to lead to a lecture on time management and personal responsibility. For some teachers, yeah, a lecture or a talk of some sort does happen, but from what I’ve learned, that often has absolutely nothing to do with a teacher thinking less of us or our character or being upset or taking the request for an extension personally, like we don’t care about their class. Instead, teachers tend to go this route because they care about us, want to check in and see how we’re doing, and want to teach us a valuable lesson about how to manage a heavy course load. 

 A few months ago, I sent out a survey to students on the topic of extensions. My goal was to gauge how often students actually asked for extensions and how they perceive teachers tended to react. 

According to the survey, there’s a small fraction of students on the extreme sides of the spectrum, with a tiny percentage of students (less than 5%) asking for extensions pretty often, and only 10% who never, ever ask for extensions (although I’m not sure how accurate that is as “never” is a pretty extreme statement). 

In the middle, we have 29.3% of students who ask for extensions occasionally (once or twice a semester). However, the majority of students (55.8%) said that they asked for extensions almost never. Perhaps it’s because of what I discussed in my previous paragraph. They’re not looking forward to a lecture or because of how they are afraid teachers are going to react, or maybe they just think the teacher is going to say no. 

For those that do ask for extensions, when it comes to what type of assignments students usually ask for extensions for, the majority (63.2%) of students say that it’s for papers, which is something I hear often from students, their reasoning being that papers are usually extremely time intensive.  If you turn it in a bit late (with an extension) it's not like you’re not going to be less prepared to learn the next topic (as it may be if you didn’t do your math homework one night), and a couple of days can do a lot to create a more thoughtful, well-produced product. “Extensions are really nice and necessary for me when it comes to writing essays,” says an unnamed student in the survey. 

Following that at 21.8% is projects, and lastly, 15% on daily homework, which is often a lot easier to complete and worth so few points in retrospect that it most often just isn’t even worth it to ask for an extension. However, a student did indicate in the free-response section of the survey that “people also ask for extensions on quizzes/tests. These are the kind I ask for most often.” 

At this point, we’ve heard how often students ask for extensions and what for, but why do they? Perhaps this may educate teachers a bit more on what’s going on behind the scenes in student’s lives and why they need an extension so desperately. Although many teachers have an idea of what kids juggle and have obviously been there before as students, perhaps they don’t remember exactly the feeling of how overwhelming and unbearable it can get when the work just piles up. 

According to the survey, for most students, the most common reason to ask for an extension is because they have a lot of assignments at the same time. In the survey, students responded by saying that teachers should realize that “some people have a lot of things to do and it can get really stressful with so many assignments.” and that “when we ask for them it’s because we have other assignments. Don’t ask us to move those other assignments instead.” 

In another student’s words, “Be more understanding that sometimes students are overloaded with assignments and tests. Not just one day but over weeks. So if you say you had a full week to do this it doesn't mean we choose not to do it till the last day. It means I've genuinely been assigned more than I could handle.” 

Close after that, the survey says that the next most popular reason is that a student worked really hard to get an assignment done, but just was not able to finish it on time for whatever reason. One student on the survey brings up an important point, that sometimes no matter how hard you work, there sometimes just aren’t enough hours in the day with sports and extracurriculars. “Not everyone can get things done. We know you work really hard. So do we,” a student says. “Give them to any student who needs it, especially athletes,” one student points out. 

Some students have the assignment almost done, but they could just use another night to polish it. “Make sure kids did their best on assignments and if they did and aren't ready to turn them in, give them the extension,” one student says. As a whole, from the free responses in the survey students want to make it very clear that they’re working hard and juggling a lot. 

Lastly, a good number of students (32%) do admit that they’ve simply procrastinated on the assignment and thus need more time, however such students tend to take responsibility for the position that they’ve put themselves in, however that doesn’t mean they don’t need help. ”If you don't typically give extensions, please start doing so. if we procrastinate it more, we procrastinate it more. it's our problem. but let us at least have the option.”

As a whole, extensions tend to be greatly beneficial for students with 87.6% saying that extensions alleviate stress and give them a chance to do much better than they would have without one. However, 8% do acknowledge that for them, extensions just extend their stress one more night and they would probably end up with the same grade anyway.

However, here’s the catch. I also sent a survey out to the teachers to see what their perspective on extensions is. According to this survey, teachers tend to be a lot more understanding than students perceive, with 55% of teachers saying that they would grant the extension if a student came to them asking. 10% said that they would accept the work late but take off points, and only 2% said they would not grant the extension. 

Let’s look at the majority for now. In what cases would that 55% grant the extension. Why would they? What is their reasoning behind it? For 73% of them, it’s because the student has come to them in advance and shown that they had many assignments due at the same time, and a close second, almost 50% say it’s because they know that the student has worked exceptionally hard on an assignment but just can’t seem to get it finished on time. 

Some recommendations from the teachers? ”Ask early, or let the teacher know that you may need an extension,” says a teacher in the survey. Teachers seem to value students taking responsibility and getting ahead of it, and asking early shows initiative and a level of maturity. “Ask for the extension with a reasonable time to be accepted, not on the day of,” another teacher says. “ASK EARLY. I tell my students repeatedly that we have SO MANY OPTIONS before a deadline, but we have VERY FEW once a deadline has passed.” 

The message seems to be clear. Most teachers don’t seem to have a problem with extensions and it never hurts to ask, but it should be well before the due date in a responsible manner.

When I asked teachers if there’s anything else they’d like to say on extensions, some of their responses stuck out to me. 

One teacher worries that extensions are a “slippery slope.” They can “become a crutch. If you're a student, try not to abuse the privilege. A good rule would be to give yourself one ‘extension ask’ per class per semester. That way, it doesn't become a trend or a habit with your teacher.”. 

Another teacher emphasized the importance of demonstrating general reliability over the course of the year. “If you've been dedicated, conscientious, and hard-working in your class before you ask for an extension, the teacher feels better about granting it,” the teacher said. “The example you set before needing an extension matters.” 

But on the flip side, more and more teachers are going the complete opposite direction: seeing extensions not as something negative, but something that simply isn’t a problem at all, maybe even something positive. I remember a discussion the rest of the newspaper team and I had in class one day with Mr. Newman regarding extensions. 

Mr. Newman shared a book with us that was intended to communicate a certain author’s perspective on the problem with the current education system and its protocols, for example how things are graded, extensions, and more. The author’s perspective on the topic of extensions is a bit extreme, believing that extensions simply shouldn’t exist, not because he believed that everything should be turned in on time, but instead, his philosophy is that no take-home assignment (ie. not a test, quiz, etc.) should adhere to a specific due date. The author believes that set due dates contributed to student panic, mental health deterioration, and student temptation to cheat. 

His idea, instead, is that students have to complete all assignments by a certain date (such as by the end of the semester or the year), but how they space them out and when they finish those assignments across the span of a year or a semester, is up for students to decide. If they don’t keep up or adhere, more or less, to the recommended due dates, more would just pile up and it would be that much harder to complete later.

Some teachers at Lovett tend to have policies that are reflective of this philosophy. "I tell my students that, if it comes down to sleep or my homework, email me about the situation and then get sleep,” one teacher wrote.  “I have found students to appreciate this and rarely abuse the policy. Otherwise, I will see timestamps on digital work of one or two in the morning. That's absurd and no daily assignment is worth the cost that exacts.” 

“I do not penalize students for late work in my class,” said another, “so extensions are not as big a deal on lab reports or projects. Moving tests and quizzes can be harder, but I am more flexible than most, so students tend to come to me first.”

Although most teachers aren’t completely on board with this philosophy yet, more teachers are leaning in this direction, becoming more understanding, and recognizing that extensions often aren’t a bad thing and in many cases, work to the student’s academic benefit.

The Lovett School is an independent, coeducational day school where children from Kindergarten through Grade 12 find the courage to explore and the drive to discover.

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