For years I've been hearing about this magical phenomenon called the late log. Here's what it is--it's a list that students sign when they're late. They come in, note their name, the time, and a reason for their lateness. This, they say, will discourage students from coming late. And by doing this, you don't have to interrupt your class with any sort of confrontation or discussion that doesn't relate to the rest of the students.
I've resisted this, though it's been suggested by a few principals of mine. I actually prefer to ask them why they're late, right then and there, and show my horror and shock to everyone who showed on time. I think they notice, and I think they think twice before coming late to my class. It's all about tolerance, and my feeling is if I have to be there on time, so do they. So frankly, I haven't got much tolerance for kids who come late for no reason, and no reason happens to be the most popular reason kids come late.
In fairness, I understand if a student is late now and then. But I'm a little upset by students who come late each and every day, and I like to discourage that if I possibly can.
Sometimes I give the kids an assignment for the first few minutes, pick up my cell, and call the homes of the students who've yet to arrive. This sends a message to the students sitting there that if this teacher is crazy enough to do it to them, he's likely crazy enough to do it to me too. Actually few students come late to my class, but there are some with whom you just can't make headway. Some kids don't care if you call their homes, and some parents don't care either. But they're in the minority, in my experience.
This year, I have a co-teacher. She's a little more receptive to suggestions from administration than I am. So the first day, she established this late log. The second day, she was otherwise occupied, and maybe fifteen kids walked in late. I didn't know where the log was. But day three, I was ready. As soon as the bell rang, I pulled out the folder with the log in it. When the same kids as the previous day showed up late, I put it out and they made a line.
Now despite the assurances that this late log thing would reduce disruption, it actually slowed down things a whole lot. All the kids had to fill out the form, and they all had to wait for everyone in front of them to fill out theirs. It was interesting to read the answers. Clearly some of the kids copied the reasons from whoever preceded them. A popular response was, "too far." That was interesting to me, since it precluded the possibility of their ever arriving on time. Too far is too far. That's it.
Now a good thing about having a co-teacher is the possibility of doing two things at once. So while my co-teacher ran the class, I pulled the students on the list out one at a time and talked about their issues. Our classroom is on the third floor in the easternmost part of the building. As it happens, when the first bell rang I was talking to my supervisor on the first floor on the opposite side of the building.
So a question I asked the students was this--how can I, an old man with one foot in the grave, make it to class on time while you are late? This was a tough question for them to answer. There really wasn't a satisfactory response. Only a few students had a really good reason. Their math teacher had kept them after the bell to work out a problem.
After I interviewed twelve students, I saw there was another page and I had six to go. I was pretty sick of having these conversations, and none of the students wanted to have them either. So I interrupted my co-teacher, and explained how deeply hurt I was by lateness. Then I taught them a new sentence.
"My English teacher is crazy. I can't be late."
I had them repeat it chorally, and then I had a few of the students say it individually. It seemed to make an impression. The next day, and the day after that, no one came late.
Views expressed herein are solely those of the author or authors, and do not reflect views of my employers, the United Federation of Teachers, the MORE Caucus or any other union caucus.
Stories herein containing unnamed or invented characters are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.