This morning I spent some time in a classroom while their teacher was finishing a meeting. The majority of children were there right on time and ready to begin. The teacher assistant greeted the children at the door and gave them a warm-up work to do until it was time for morning meeting. It was a 5-10 minute activity.
Three children arrived late and did not have time to start the activity before being called to the rug. One child was visibly anxious about this and came to me saying, “I haven’t started tracing my numbers yet!” I assured her that it would be all right and that she would have time to finish the activity later. But as she watched the other children putting their work in the completion basket, the look on her face told me she remained unconvinced. I wondered how well the child was able to hear what the adult was saying in morning meeting. She did not raise her hand at all. I wondered if she was still thinking about that worksheet.
We all know how hard it is to “catchup” during the day when we start behind. I hope the rest of her day is better.
Until I spent time in classrooms early in the morning, I did not appreciate how late arrival can mess up a child’s day. It can also mess up the classroom. This particular morning there were no children that came in and interrupted morning meeting, but I know that often happens in other rooms. Coming in late puts the “late arrivee” on the spot for anything they might have missed. Moreover, everyone's attention diverts to the person putting up their water bottle, lunch, etc. Children are missing what the teacher is saying. And what she is saying first thing in the morning is pretty important. If it’s just one child, the teacher can check in with the group and make sure everyone got everything. But if it happens four times over 10-15 minutes, it becomes difficult to regroup. Everyone ends up getting pretty frustrated.
I’m not talking to the parent that is late to school once a quarter. I’m talking to the folks that are late more than once a week. Now before you get all irritated with me, I will tell you that I used to be chronically late. I misjudge the time and try to stuff too much activity into the period right before I have to leave to go places. The only reason my kids were at school on time was because I worked in the front office and had to be in the building early in the day. Most important, I didn’t think it was a big deal to be 15-20 minutes late all the time. Finally, a good friend of mine left me behind one day when I didn't meet her to carpool because I was 15 minutes late yet again. She was fed-up. The day after that, another good friend and psychologist told me that chronic lateness is just passive aggressive behavior towards the person you are holding up. I guess that’s why it feels so rude.
I can’t tell you that I was never late after that, but I decided that being on time was going to be important. I just realized I wanted to give people more respect, and I wanted to stop arriving at places feeling rushed and scattered.
Isn’t that something you want to teach your child?