As I sit in my office, having already done secondary morning announcements at 8:15 and doing a few items before elementary at 8:50, a student saunters past my office window, on this sunny day, 15 minutes late for class. Not the first time. Will not be the last. We have struggled here with tardiness, with a small group of students forever. In the fall of 2011 when we moved to a new schedule, starting school at 8:15 instead of 8:45, the dire predictions of massive problems with late students never materialized. I was presented with a research study showing the teenage brain could not engage before a particular time, and I did not buy it. I have teenagers at home. I do not see their brain engaging much before noon, on any given day, so really, what is a half hour?
So, was my problem with tardiness increased? No. Now, I did not do specific research in a double blind placebo study….but we are small enough, I just know. The kids who were often late at 8:45 are the same ones late at 8:15. They are also often late after an hour lunch in a community in which there is not really one house more than a KM or so from the school.
The problem with tardiness is extra-educational. It comes mostly from attitudes born in the home, and the measures taken there. I know in my house, even if I was not in education, if my kids were late for school for any reason other than a good one, the measures their mother would take, would ensure it would be a very, very, very rare occurrence.
In ten years in this job, I have experimented with countless ways to discourage tardiness. I do not like the punishment paradigm. Perhaps elsewhere it works, but in our school it is not a deterrent. If there is a consequence, like a detention, or extra school work, or suspensions, etc for being late, kids will simply not show up to that particular class if they are going to be late, and that clearly does not work. As frustrating as it is for everyone, I would rather have them here, in class, late, than at home sleeping, or playing Xbox until period two. I face a lot of criticism over that, but so be it.
My belief, is that until it enters a student’s mind that being on time is important, for those who are late, nothing will change. The question, then is, how do we instill that idea, when it is probably not being effectively instilled at home? I know many of the parents of these students themselves have a great deal of respect for being on time, because they are good employees and show up to work on time, but somehow it is not being transferred, yet to our kids. I also know that many of our kids who are often late, get part time jobs and are never late. Why is that? Certainly because they are motivated by money, and they know they will get fired, and they do not want to get fired. They have an intrinsic motivation. School is not that for them.
So, in thinking about my previous post about teacher choice in PD, and some of the conversations I have had in person, in the twitterverse and elsewhere about student choice, I have come to a thought that has been percolating a bit in the past few weeks. How effective would it be, if when we run into tardy students, and they have hit that magic number, whether it be 5 or 10 or whatever you want, we give them choice about the consequences? Not even sure what the choices should be? Detention, lines, writing assignment, letter of apology, make up time, internal suspension, etc, etc, etc. However, I wonder, if I engaged the students and gave them ownership of the problem, and some choice in the appropriate “consequences”, would a difference be made?
I wonder? Perhaps in September we can give it a try? Stay tuned! By the way, here is that sunny day I was referencing, in case no one believes it!