This is not the post I planned to write and share today, but sometimes things have a way of getting under your skin and you need to vent – and I’m sorry but today I’ll be venting.
It was just before 9am on a cold but sunny morning. Clear blue skies, my train had run perfectly and I arrived on campus in a good mood, ready to face the day. I still had some coffee left in my travel mug, so I got my papers and laptop out in readiness for my class, then sat down and finished off my coffee.
The class usually starts arriving just after 9 and by 9.05 we’re ready to get started. However, on this day, it proved to be a bit different – 9.05 came and went; my coffee cup by now was empty. While waiting for the class, I took the short walk along the corridor to pop some papers in the recycling bin and then back to class – to continue waiting. I logged into MS Teams to check for and deal with some general communications – students looking for help, students seeking extensions – run of the mill stuff – no “sorry I’m running late; sorry I’m not going to be in”. 9.10 – still no sign of a class – 9.15 and 0 students. This was starting to get irritating.
9.20 – nada – I locked the classroom door, wandered through to the workroom to chat with a colleague, that earlier coffee as meant a short comfort break. 9.30ish I arrive back at the classroom and 4 students (there should be about 11) are waiting – all bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for class – they had obviously been to the canteen for their coffees before coming to class – calm, easy-going Brenda exploded! 9.30 and they act as if nothing is wrong; they actually thought that it was ok – they’re only 5 minutes late – at 9.30 for a 9am class!!!
As a student, I’d always been told 15 minute wait – if the lecturer doesn’t turn up, there is no class – and it works both ways. I advised the 4 who had deigned to turn up so late that class wasn’t going ahead. I did give them the activity sheet containing the research task they would have done in class and told them to ensure its done for next week.
Recently, a fellow blogger (Wynne Leon) shared a post about setting boundaries and having these respected by others. The day after reading her post, I found myself in the above situation. I feel the students demonstrated a distinct lack of respect and they crossed the line. The students were certainly pushing the boundaries, testing my patience and discovered the limit. What is even more frustrating is I have strong suspicions that some of them would have been on campus on time but sitting in the canteen drinking coffee, waiting for their friends before coming to class. Well the result is they came to college, had a coffee and got sent home again as this was their only class. Hopefully they have learned the lesson the hard way. Time will tell.
In her post, Wynne talks about setting boundaries, so her children (and the cat) know what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. I’ve been teaching this class since September, so I am left wondering if I failed to do that with this class, to set clear boundaries and enforce them; that the students think its ok to come swanning in at 9.30, that they don’t see an issue with that. The students who would normally turn up at 9 were absent; perhaps there’s an attitude of it doesn’t matter if I’m not on time because others will be there, so they’re not taking any responsibility or accountability for themselves or towards their classmates. I guess they learned the hard way of the risk with that approach – hopefully they’ll be more punctual next week. But maybe I also need to be firmer about timekeeping on a weekly basis so tardiness doesn’t slip so that 9.30 feels like they’re only 5 minutes late.
I always establish ground rules at the beginning of the year with all my classes – maybe I need to reinforce timekeeping more from the outset, but when did adults (these are adults not school leavers) decide that timekeeping is unimportant, that being on time to class is optional? I know when I was a student I always tried to be on time and if I was more than about 10 minutes late, I would feel too embarrassed to enter the lecture theatre/classroom – its disrespectful to the lecturer and the other students.
I hope I’ve emphasised the boundaries, drawn a line in the sand not to be crossed again. Now I just need to see if I have a class in front of me at 9am next week.