How teachers can effectively deal with student tardiness

While lateness deters academic achievement, it is one of the minor evils teachers unconsciously accommodate in their classes. Whether in boarding or day school; primary or tertiary level, tardiness is something students struggle with.

Understandably, some students are usually late for class for reasons that are beyond their control. However, such cases are generally uncommon. Most students arrive at school after the bell has rung because of choices they’ve made. Their lateness might be a result of sleeping till late or sheer carelessness. Others just wander in to class a few minutes late because they like the attention their grand entrance receives, especially if it results in a few minutes of one-on-one time with the teacher.

Whatever the case, if you have a student who consistently arrives late to school or class, try to identify the pattern that student is exhibiting. You will want to talk with the student and his parents or guardian, of course; you also might check with previous teachers and review past report cards to find out if tardiness was a problem in the past. Also, consider whether the student’s lateness is part of a larger pattern of disorganisation and difficulty with time management.

In addition to that, you should also make sure your students understand the importance of punctuality. Students, especially if they are young, might not realize that they are arriving at school late, or they might not appreciate the importance of being on time. If you suspect that’s the case, make sure they understand what time they are expected to be at school or in class and tell them that you expect them to be seated at their desks at that time.

Furthermore, you can talk with the parents of a consistently late student. Be sure they know what time students are expected to be in the classroom, and that they understand the academic difficulties faced by their child when he arrives late. You might ask parents about their child’s morning routine and suggest some ways the pattern might be changed to get him out of the house earlier. For example, if he is often late because he takes too much time gathering his materials in the morning, suggest he do that the night before.

Provide a consequence for tardiness. You might have a student remain inside during recess or attend after-school detention when he has accumulated a set number of “tardies,” but make sure to only count those late arrivals the student had some responsibility for. Impose the consequence in a matter-of-fact manner, without showing signs of anger. At the same time, be sure to acknowledge the student when he is punctual.

Students may be habitually tardy because the teacher himself never keeps time or because the teacher is boring and makes zero attempt at doing anything to improve. Make the beginning of class especially interesting. That may entice the dawdlers to get to school on time. Start class soon after the bell rings with a brief but fun task such as a puzzle, a joke, a brain teaser, a humorous poem, or an educational game. You might even place on students’ desks a fun task for them to begin as soon as they enter the classroom.

The consequences of lateness may not be immediate as to call our attention to its dangers but it surely is as lethal as indiscipline, noise making, talking out of turns, aggression or any other school misdemeanor. If teachers do not set their expectations clearly, students tend to take advantage to arrive or even leave class at their will.

The writer is a Language Consultant