The semester starts now and students will fill the classrooms ready for their lives to begin. Unfortunately, they think they can do so whenever they want. Some stroll in saying they got stuck in traffic, but they do so carrying coffee from Starbucks. Some are late because they couldn’t find a parking spot and I tell them if they got here so close to class time that finding a spot was an issue, they left home too late, and they’re never going to make it in the corporate world. I share with them Lee Iacoca’s decision to eliminate all personalized parking spots at Chrysler. He said if you’re doing the job right, you’re there early enough not to need a reserved space anyway.
Some stand in the hallway talking to some significant other about not being able to bare being without that person for another hour. Some stand up half way through the class and leave, apologizing, saying they had the wrong class even though they were looking for biology lab and I had just spent thirty minutes talking about creative writing. That doesn’t bother me, but in some other class somewhere is the student who was supposed to be in mine, and that student strolls in to my class half an hour late saying he was in the wrong class. He says when the professor started talking about dissecting a rabbit he wondered if it was creative writing after all. Ironically enough it could have been.
Please understand that this problem—showing up to class late—is chronic and widespread and over the years has gotten worse. There is recourse, however. We can count them completely absent if they walk in the door even a few seconds after we start lecturing. When they’ve missed fifteen percent of the course, including tardiness, they can be withdrawn with or without a failing grade. This rule is required to be on every faculty member’s outline. I put it on there but to be honest I don’t always adhere to it. I teach many military students, and after class, those who arrive late often show me their duty sheet and talk about a colleague who needed counseling. We learn to know what excuses are legit or not. Unfortunately, some of the tragic excuses are valid.
I really try not to be a prick. And it isn’t the “showing up late” that is a problem specifically, anyway; they can get the notes from someone. The bigger issue is their sense of individualism at a time they should be demonstrating their ability to work with others and respect them. When someone is late, that person is basically saying, “Whatever you are doing is no where near as important as what I am doing, so you’ll just have to wait.” This is true if someone is late for class, for dinner, a date, anything. See what happens if you show up late to a job interview. College degrees are common. 4.0 GPA’s are everywhere. So I like to ask my students what do they need to do in this class to stand out as someone worth recommending to another college or for a job? Because showing up on time and doing well is where the class expectations start. When they regularly show up late, they’re already not worth recommending; they’re just in the way.
And they have the excuses ready, so we have the policy. We can play with the wording how we wish, and every semester I adjust it just a little. One of the more frustrating fall semesters I noted that attendance was not an issue. I wrote that I didn’t care when they strolled in. I wrote that I know they have so many other obligations, so I wished to help out any way that I could. If they arrived late, the outline stated, I’d be happy to type up the notes and give them to them, and follow it up with individual phone calls to make sure they understood the material. I would even brew a pot of coffee, I wrote. Very few students understood my sarcasm.
But like my military students, the other students with legitimate tardiness because of kids, jobs, illness, and more, are the ones who call to apologize and usually get the work done ahead of time anyway. Those who do have valid reasons to be late are usually the ones who never are. No, it is almost always the lazy ass, howl-at-the-moon stupid ones with no jobs who live at home that show up late. One guy came in eating an Egg McMuffin saying he just woke up and rushed in as fast as he could (except for stopping for breakfast, of course). Several students over the years have reeked of alcohol. One woman showed up late, yelling, “Do you have any idea what freaking time it is?”
So this semester I’ve once again updated my course outline in anticipation of the lateness that is only getting worse. The dean of the department still needs to approve this:
“What is so fucking difficult about getting to class on time? Let’s simply assume traffic is heavy, the weather is bad, accidents are everywhere, and the parking spots are taken. Get your ass in the chair by the time class starts or go home and come back when you grow up into a responsible human instead of an entitled little shit who thinks you can show up when you damn well feel like it. If you are late to work or don’t show up, you get fired, if you are late to class or don’t show up, you fail. Either way, F. It’s a great fucking letter. And as for your oh-my-god-this-is-the-best-ever excuse, we’ve heard it already. And no, you AREN’T paying me. You can’t come close to affording me. If you’re not ready to attend class, go in the hall, call your parole officer and say college just didn’t work out after all.”
I know the dean well enough to know she will at least want to approve this one. So I’m going to give this a shot for awhile. Now, back to the rough draft of my course outline.
I have to finish the Cell Phone Policy.