late arrivals

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I  have a question related to the recent thread and article about student rudeness. My syllabus contains a detailed section on class etiquette for just the reasons that others have outlined, and I have not had a lot of trouble with rude students in the ten years I've been teaching at the college level.

However, I've just started at a new school, and one of my longstanding rules is having some unintended consequences. To encourage coming to class on time, I have always told students that "if you are more than 10 minutes late, it counts as an absence," and three absences may lower their grade. Frankly, I sort of resent having to take roll every class, as the students stroll in, but it does help me learn their names, and the administration here wants all faculty to require attendance to help cut down on student drinking (convoluted logic there).

Anyway, already this semester two students have come to my office hours to hand in their assignment and have told me, "I realized I was going to be more than ten minutes late, so I didn't come to class at all." !!!! I should say that it is a very large university, but not huge classes -- under 35. Of course I told them that they should come to class next time, but I'm now wondering what other technique I could use to discourage lateness in next semester's classes.

ABD Candidate:
Bookish ...

You raise some good points, as does the other current discussion on rude behavior. Not meaning any disrespect to you, I disagree with your method. You state that if students are ten minutes late, that it is an absence, and if they do decide to come anyway, you've already determined that for them that they are in fact absent. I don't believe they are thinking about missed material, but rather the ultimate consequence of being late.

For you and others reading this post, please keep in mind that on some campuses, some classrooms are located at opposite ends of the campus, or a fair distance away, and it does take longer than 10 or 15 minutes to get from one place to another. Sometimes, people also need to visit a restroom on the way, and if you have to wait, well, then it's going to take longer to get where you need to be in a hurry. Taking a hard stance on this will only end in your being frustrated, and having anxious students sitting in your classroom.

What I have used is class discussion to talk over expectations, including the exercise BF posted in the other discussion. It works. I tell students that cell phones, talking in class, arriving late, and doing homework for another class is all considered disruptive behavior by me -- and if it gets out of hand, they will be asked to leave. I make it clear that they will get a lot out of my class (value, discussion, knowledge, etc.) and I try to earn their respect right away. So it would be best if they arrive on time, pay attention, and participate. They get it.

Good luck to you.

Well I am not sure if what I do in my classes will be of any assistance, but here goes. On my syllabus, I state that the students have a 10-minute grace period to get to class. In short, although class starts at 10:30 a.m., they have until 10:40 a.m., after that, they are absent. I tell them on the first day of class that this policy is not to be abused, but rather used for unforseen circumstances that might arise during the semester. They also know, as it is stated in the syllabus as well, that no late papers are accepted under any circumstances, unless it is cleared with me first. Quite simply, if you come late everyday, after the grace period, then I will reduce the attendance/participation grade severely.

So far, it appears to be working and students appreciate being treated as adults, and they'll tend to look past your flaws as the instructor, which is the additional benefit. For instance, last week there was an awful amount of rain that came through the Washington, D.C., metro area. The highways were jammed, and although I'd left home nearly 90 minutes this particular day before my class, I was still running late. I called ahead to the college and asked that they send someone to the classroom to let the students know I'd be late. When I got there, they jokingly told me that I had about five more minutes left on my grace period, and that they didn't mind waiting for me. So, I think the point of my story is that if you give the students some sort of leeway while not bending your rules, then they'll appreciate you moreso and want to do what's right.

My suggestion would be reiterate that you do not waste too much time on late students (focus on the ones who are on time and ready to learn) and do not accept late papers under any circumstances; put it all in the syllabus, and that way when they do come whining to you, you can always take out the syllabus and point out the class policies/procedures.

Dr. D.:
I never take roll and I don't care if they're late, absent, or what not. I figure that if they miss the information at the beginning of class it's their problem not mine. When it's time to start class, I just begin, I might make a funny comment about someone coming in late, etc., but generally I find that treating students as adults yields respect.

pastries + coffee:
A friend of mine just instituted a new rule about lateness:  When a student is late, the next class they must bring coffee or pastries for the entire class. She also follows this rule when she is late. (Mind you, this is a studio class, so food and beverages are allowed). All students seem to love this idea and follow through. Embracing the unavoidable, she says.


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