I chatted with a handful of eighth graders today about a writing assignment due last week, but that they haven't turned in yet. I tried to play the conversation cool, neutral: "How's your progress? Anything I can help with? What's your plan to get to done?" I tend to trust in a version of standards-based grading that doesn't demand dishing out penalties for lateness (though I do make notes about timeliness in grade-book comments). Revising and resubmitting work are also acceptable moves, encouraging opportunities for students to keep learning (or scrounging for points, depending on whom you ask). Even with parameters that some might bemoan as lax, 64 of 75 students turned in drafts by the appointed deadline. In today's dialogues with students behind schedule, one through-line caught my attention. When I asked, "What's your plan to finish?", the responses varied from, "Dunno," to "I'm going to work on it." Specifics were glaringly lacking. I tried to guide the exchange to more actionable ground: "Give me an idea about when I can expect to receive your work." The most definitive answer I can recall was, "Pretty soon." I put in a plug for making plans, how setting precise goals can actually improve the likelihood of being successful. Without a degree of exactitude, though, accountability dissolves into flimsier aspirations, just adjacent to wishful thinking. None of those are words I said at the time; they're what I'm thinking now. In those moments earlier today, I settled for pressing insistently for a new student-set due date based on a simple choice: "Can you get the draft in by the end of the week? Or will you need to use the weekend, then turn in your work by Monday?" I could go on, but I've got a fast-approaching deadline of my own to honor.