April 29, 2011

Students Who Are Chronically Late to Class

By: in Effective Classroom Management

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Students who display a passive-aggressive personality style may do so in a variety of ways … from chronic tardiness to sleeping in class. Let’s look at the student who’s always running late.

As you know, some students are late to class on a regular basis, and in doing so are probably displaying a form of resistance or defiance—and it is wise to see it as such.

When questioned about their habitual lateness, students are apt to justify or excuse it on the grounds that they have other tasks to attend to, such as child care or job responsibilities that preempt punctual class attendance. Many instructors are thus made to feel guilty and are thereby disarmed by such reasons or excuses. They allow students to talk them into considering these excuses as authentic extenuations.

If this sounds familiar to you, here are a few opinions on the subject to consider.

  1. Arriving to class punctually is an important responsibility borne entirely by the student, not the instructor.
  2. Although child care or job responsibilities are clearly time consuming, and when combined with the demands connected with attending college can be downright overwhelming, it is again largely the responsibility of the student, not the instructor, to decide which takes priority — one’s job, one’s child care responsibilities, or punctually attending classes.
  3. Lateness is often a rude and disruptive form of behavior, especially when it is accompanied by doors opening and shutting, loud noises, and students distractingly passing in front of the instructor to get to their seats.
  4. Habitual lateness to class, much like when friends or family members habitually arrive late for social gatherings and usually infuriate us because of their thoughtlessness, is typically a sign of devaluation of and contempt for instructors and other students who have arrived to class punctually. Even more important, it is most likely a sign of devaluation and contempt for one’s own education, albeit unconscious, since the student’s habitual lateness will necessarily curtail his or her time in class and cause the student to forfeit important opportunities for learning.
  5. Instructors who habitually arrive late to class themselves are poor models for their students and should find any reasonable means possible to correct this form of unprofessional behavior.

Generally speaking, strict rules and adverse consequences for chronic lateness almost always improve attendance and punctuality. Remember, this form of passive-aggressive behavior can be remedied if you allow yourself to use a clear, fair, and proportionate set of adverse consequences to deal with it.

Excerpted from Coping with Seven Disruptive Personality Types in the Classroom. Learn more about this whitepaper »

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Comments

Lance | April 29, 2011

“students are apt to justify or excuse it on the grounds that they have other tasks to attend to, such as child care or job responsibilities that preempt punctual class attendance” or more correctly, punctual arrival. I don’t get these excuses. The most common ones are heavy traffic and overslept.

This isn’t passive-aggressive behavior. It is merely a lack of self-discipline. Students correct this behavor when they want to, such as to avoid grade reduction.

Stanley Forrester | May 6, 2011

In my experience simply addressing the issue with the student has been very effective in the past.

eddoc | July 8, 2011

The first year I taught on the college level I never dreamed that students would show up to class as much as 20 minutes late and expect to be counted as being in attendance. The next semester I made a new policy; there is no such thing as tardy when the door is closed, class has started and you are absent. I no longer have a tardy problem. Oh, sure there have been students that will open the door 10 minutes after class has started and give me a sheepish look; my reply you are absent please close the door on your way out. Now, for my disclaimer I arrive to class on time, put down my books, make a few notes on the board, set up the power point, and have a little small talk with the class before I close the door. Which means the door doesn’t close to almost 3 minutes after the time class is to begin. Also on the first day of class I tell the class that if they are coming from the far end of the campus and they anticipate being tardy because of that to see me and we will work it out. I can’t tell you how this has made my class so much more enjoyable. Tardy-don’t take it!

marybart | July 11, 2011

I think this is a very good approach!

Bob | July 20, 2011

I think your type of student body should be a consideration. Most working adults learn the importance of punctuality. In grad school there were times I could not make it to class on time, and as a professional, I would have considered it rude for the teacher to embarrass me in front of the class.
However, I get the point. As an instructor, being too lenient encourages a lackadaisical attitude toward my course. Discussing the problem individually with the problem student seems to be the most mature approach. Being a dictator might work for some, but will leave a negative impression on many students …and certainly does promote a creative learning environment.

CMM | June 21, 2012

This is great. I will take your suggestions. Thanks so much.

Diane | January 28, 2013

I teach high school and lateness is a real problem. Some days only 1/2 to 1/3 of the class arrives on time. We are not allowed to refuse entry and most of us have run out of ideas for adverse consequences for chronic lateness . Some teachers have the students sing if they are late some write their names down and have a weekly draw from the late students names for who will clean the room after school on Friday but nothing seems to work . I have tired not giving attention to the late comers who have missed the lesson but then they cause more problems from not knowing what to do.

Teresa | February 18, 2013

I teach cosmetology at the college level. We have a "daily task" that they have to do complete at the start of class, they have the 1st 10 minutes of class to complete and there is NO make up for it, they get a ZERO if they are late. This is averaged in with their professionalism grade, if they are late, that professionalism grade will be an automatic "Fail" for the day! It works for some, and not for others. We withdraw them from the program if they miss 5 classes, for 2 reasons. They students have to accumulate 1500 clock hours to sit for their state boards, and it is a requirement with our accrediting agency.

Teresa | February 18, 2013

@Starbird above, Accredation requirements have changed and if our students aren't attending class, we could lose our accredation. Your lacksidasical attitude toward attending class and the fact that you are 52 and feel like you are being disrespected, why not act like an adult and come to class, after all YOU are paying for an education but yet you don't feel like you have to be there in the chair ? It sounds to me like you have no respect for your instructor either so I wonder what are your plans after school….. How can you perform if you're not there…. I wouldn't hire you….. Employers that call me for references ALWAYS ask me about attendance and tardiness.

MONIKA | March 3, 2013

@Teresa ABOVE, you need to consider both sides to this than having to be one sided! As a student myself and a full time worker, there are times when I have been late, I know that employers are looking for great punctuality but this is REAL people that are in the REAL workforce contributing to the economy and as a Teacher your duty is simply to TEACH those that are willing to learn, these working people are committing to develop their professional skills not just slacking OFF!! And your attitude is not acceptable, because if you knew what REAL people are doing than you would not have written the statement above, so get OVER your selflessness and give starbird a BREAK.

58173 | March 8, 2013

That would mean tardiness is automatically petty.

T. Smith | March 22, 2013

That doesn't always work as I have had numerous conversations with a current student as recently as yesterday. We have a strict attendance policy, as my students have to complete 1500 hours and then take a licensing exam. She is failing my class due to tardiness (we have a Daily Task at the beginning of every class and if a student is late, is is a zero) this student should be graduating in less than a week and continues to come late to class.

Prof. David | September 24, 2013

For college students there are several issues here: 1) the professor may feel disrespected by a student for being late 2) for smaller classes, other student's learning is disrupted 3) student doesn't fully learn the material being taught.. For the first point, make it verbally clear what you consider disrespectful including taridness, excessive phone use, excessive talking and why they should consider is disrespectful as well. The WHY is the important part. Most would say "They should already know why." Don't assume. Just tell them upfront. The second point should be used as one of the Why's. Explain that you really don't mind that they walk in late. It's that everyone in the room looks at the person walking in late rather than the lesson. Some students will learn less because of a tardy and that they don't have the right to negatively affect others learning. Obviously this is less true for large lecture classes with 50-100 students. Thirdly, the professor should inform students that they are responsible for getting missed notes & assignments from other students and shouldn't expect the professor to repeat everything. A nice website can take care of this. Lastly, a student's grade should only reflect if they've learned the objectives of the course-nothing else. Well written exams and term papers will accurately measure student learning of course objectives and if a 52 year old wants to show up just for exams and ace them, that's fine…they've learned the objectives of the course, A+.


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