Monday, September 27, 2010

Early Thirsty: Tardiness

This semester, I instituted a new policy: Once class has started, I close (and lock) the door. Once the door is closed, the door is closed. NO ONE comes in late. I typically will give them a few minutes of leeway (most days around 5 minutes). I had a few reasons.

1. I feel more secure knowing that any random person in the hallway (especially someone with bad intentions) can't just walk right in (Ok, this might be a false sense of security, but it makes me feel better anyway)

2. The constant interruption of students coming in late bothered me to the point where I could no longer stand it.

Number 2 felt especially important in my public speaking classes, when students would stroll in right in the middle of their classmates' speeches, sit down, rifle through their bags, greet their friends and generally be complete @$$holes. I also got sick of people coming in during lecture, and then bugging me after class to know what they missed. I even had one student who walked in late, sat down, then raised his hand and asked me to "quickly review" what he'd missed, right in the middle of the lecture. I declined, resisting the urge to go strangle him at his desk.

Five weeks in, the new policy seems to be working fine. A couple people don't like it, but there haven't been any major complaints. Until today. During my 3 o'clock class, a student knocked on my door 20 minutes into a 50 minute class, right in the middle of another student's presentation. I didn't open the door.

Once class was over, Ms. Tardy came in and read me the riot act. She demanded to know why she had been made to stand outside for the last 30 minutes. I explained the policy to her, noting that I had explained it in class three times and that it was clearly written in her syllabus. Her retort? "Well, I have worked 40 out of the last 48 hours, so what if I slept in and was a few minutes late to class?" This brought to mind several questions: What kind of job does she have? Which might answer: Why does she sleep so late into the afternoon? And finally: In what universe does 20 minutes (out of a 50 minute class) qualify as "a few minutes?" Holy hell, woman, you missed almost half the class! I explained the policy to her again, emphasizing how late she was, and she left in a huff (no doubt to craft a "poor me" email to my department chair or the dean or something).

So, after all this rambling, I come to my question:

Q: What is your policy on tardiness? Are you a hard ass (their label, not mine) like me, or are you more relaxed? And why?


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  2. Bravo, Chloe, on your policy. I wish I could enforce mine as well as yours, but I can't lock all the doors where I teach a class of 100. I do use a large C-clamp to disable the front door, so there can't be a steady stream passing through everyone's line of sight. I just know I'm going to get yelled at by someone who invokes the fire marshal, but I've never seen a student who couldn't figure out instantly how to open this setup from the inside.

    Also, early in the semester I make unmistakable examples of students who do foolish things, such as step between my audience and me when I am talking. I don't try to be like a drill sergeant: these kids have had so little discipline, they genuinely do not know enough to be afraid if you yell at them. I find it's much more effective just to tell them, clearly, that this would not be acceptable in a real job in the real world.

    This semester, one kid had the annoying habit of drifting in and out of class. When I let him have it, he blurted out that he had to go to the bathroom. I fired right back that if he couldn't sit through a 50-minute class without a bathroom break, he ought to see a physician. This appears to have cured him. My department chair loved it: he chortled, "You might have saved his life..." In more ways than one, I say.

  3. The last student I had who tended to drift in and out of class "to go to the bathroom" pretty clearly had a cocaine problem. He evaporated about a third of the way through term - after begging me to let him into the class, of course ...

    I don't care if they show up late, but I'm not teaching public speaking, and the doors are at the back of the rooms, so they aren't walking in past me or in full view of the other students. If the geography were different, or they were interrupting other students, or me, I would certainly care.

    I have started having a one-question quiz at the beginning of each class. Amazing how many students miss it. But I figure that's their problem, as is anything else they miss. My feeling is, your life is your life, but I'm not reviewing what you missed. (What I say is "I don't keep notes. I'm sure you can get them from another students."

  4. I do administrivia at the beginning of class (once/week grad classes), which I do nor repeat (unless someone is ill or I have a good reason)..

    I usually get good results from late folks with my Heat Vision glare if they come in late.

  5. I teach smallish classes of not-public-speaking and I mark tardy students in my attendance roll. If it becomes a problem or it's obvious the student is simply not trying to attend class on time, I chat with them. After that, continued tardiness turns into an absence in the roll. If I taught public speaking, I would be more of a hard-ass, too; as it is, though, most of my students aren't too disruptive so it hasn't been a concern. When it comes to cell phones and mp3 players and all that other shit, well, that's where I lose all sense of kindness and generosity I may have had.

  6. I implemented a new policy that seems to be working well -- the late chair. As juvenile as it may sound, I designated a seat near the door (which is at the front of the room) for students who arrive late or need to leave early. The ins and outs of the room are extremely distracting to me, so each year I've tried to control it using different strategies. This one actually seems to work best. I'm amazed! Students have rarely been late, and when they are, they suffer the death stare and take the "late seat." In my 3 hour classes, we take a break at the half-way point. The late student actually begged to get to sit in his normal seat after the break! There may be no true causal relationship, but it makes me giggle. And, really, what is more important than that? :)

  7. I have a three-tardies-and-you're-absent policy, but I'm not one who particularly cares about tardy students. If they miss something, that's their own damn fault. And there's also the thought that I don't care to be a hypocrite, as I don't think I made it to a single class on time during grad school.

  8. I make late students come into the back door and take the first seat available. If they are so lame/vain/stupid as to walk across the front of the room, I stop lecturing and let silence fall while they get into their seat, get their books out, whatever. Sometimes I intone "Walk of Shaaaa-aaaa-me."

    Of course, they often walk in with headphones on and miss the whole thing. But it is entertaining for the other students.

  9. I had an undergrad English proffie who made the latecomers sit in the hallway outside the classroom, straining to hear the lecture. He refused to let them actually enter the classroom, but he would let them drag a desk outside, sort of like making bad little children sit in the corner with a dunce cap. In grad school, none of my professors seem to care about latecomers, although they don't make any special accomodations for them. Hardly any even bother to take attendance. Grad classes are always in the early evening, and sometimes students are late because they get held up at work. Many of the profs use only their own lecture notes as curriculum so missing even 15 minutes of it could affect your grade. I guess they figure that's punishment enough, or perhaps they just don't care.

  10. I can't lock the door, alas. I would in a heartbeat. I use public humiliation as a tool. I'll ask if it's 9:00 John standard time. Or I'll ask who had 9:12 for Jane's arrival in the class pool. If it happens once in a while, I'll overlook it. Once there's a pattern, they're my bitches.

  11. I do teach public speaking, and I have rules on NEVER walking between me and someone giving a speech and waiting outside until a speech is over.
    I did read advise for teaching acting which did include locking the door. The idea was that few people this side of Marilyn Monroe can get away with being late, so they might as well learn it now.


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