Tonight was a frustrating night at work. It was my new class. Most of the class is pretty good, but there are four students who make it particularly trying. One is a girl called Wendy who never does as much homework as she’s supposed to do. She’s the only girl I’ve ever taught who is a perpetual “D” student, and she consistently hands in the homework she should have done if she were a “C” student. Each time this happens, I double the homework assignment and mention it in class. After seven consecutive classes of doing this and three phone calls to her parents, she’s still not doing the amount of homework she’s supposed to. She now owes me double homework for every taping assignment I’ve given over the last two months. She and her family’s domestic worker who brings her to class both said that it’s “a lot”. Duh.

Wendy’s not the toughest problem student now, though. No, that title falls upon a boy who goes by “Little Billy”. He’s a bright boy, and somehow does alright in class despite having no prior experience in English classes, but he’s skipped some taping and he hasn’t turned in any of the first three written assignments. All of our students have two notebooks for small homework assignments, called “My questions A” and “My questions B”. That way, while I’m grading one notebook, they can do their next assignment in the other.

Little Billy has been pretty good about his homework on the whole, but when he doesn’t do it and I mention it in class, he always says he turned in whatever assignment in “just before class”. Tonight, I told him and his mom to stay after class, and I explained the situation to her. Little Billy looked up at her and swore that he’d turned in his tapes last class and two classes ago and that maybe I’d just misplaced them. I asked if he had them, and he said that no, I’d never given them back. So, I asked about his written homework. Predictably, he said he’d written the homework assignments in the proper books and turned them in; I just hadn’t given them back to him. Undeterred, I reached into his backpack, and there I found a “My questions A” notebook and a “My questions B” notebook. Both were completely blank.