How do you handle chronic tardiness?

Last year I had a seventh grader who was chronically tardy. Detention didn’t work. I started having him call his mom at work every time he was tardy. I figured that if he was going to interrupt my class, he could interrupt his mom at work. She wasn’t too happy, but at least she knew how often this was happening. His tardiness didn’t end, but it did improve.

Cathie Fenger, Seventh grade language arts, Marshall, Minnesota

At the beginning of each quarter, students in my computer classes create a time card for themselves. Each day, they record their attendance, just as one would at a job. Each class period counts four hours. On Fridays, the information is transferred to a spreadsheet representing a payroll register. Formulas are put into the register to calculate total hours for the week, gross pay, deductions, and net pay. Since part-time workers rarely receive benefits, there’s no pay for snow days, vacations, sick days, and doctor’s appointments.

There’s also a deduction of one to four hours for tardiness.

At the end of the quarter, students who have earned the most pay receive valuable bonus points. Students quickly learn that being late or absent doesn’t pay.

Wanda Samson, Business teacher, Fremont, Nebraska

I approach chronic tardiness as a family problem and work with parents and the child in a “partner” approach. I record chronic late arrivals and call a conference where I share the data, express my concern, and ask for their help. Many parents aren’t aware of how many times their child is late.

I give “I” messages rather than place blame. I detail what we do in the first 30 minutes of school and how that organizational time is important. If there’s evidence that the tardiness is negatively impacting grades or learning, I present this as well. As the situation improves, I send notes home expressing the improvement and appreciation for their efforts.

Jan Formisano, Multi-age, second/third grade, Mercer Island School District, Washington

To curb tardies, my high school staff created a system based on a graduated set of consequences:

  • 1st occurrence: Teacher writes referral.
  • 2nd: Lunch detention (served within 24 hours).
  • 3rd: Saturday school (served the following Saturday).
  • 4th: “Community” service (after school/in-building chores).
  • 5th: Student suspended for one or more days. A student’s failure to serve any of these consequences automatically results in an acceleration of the next level.

`Sherrie McDowell, English teacher, Cheyenne, Wyoming

“Real Teachers . . . remember that they were once real kids.”

Ellen Hayes, eighth grade math teacher, Clinton, Iowa

From NEA Today September 2001, page 27

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