What Happens When You Cross The Line? Respecting Boundaries

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.


  1. I think yes
    You need to make it very clear what happens when people are late.

    You either mark all of them absent.
    Like if everyone gets a lesson, they will respect the time.

    Or you talk to them.

    Hey, are you a strict teacher or fun teacher?
    Because till now I’ve considered you fun
    But, now I’m bit scared.

  2. They’re all lucky I’m not the teacher. Then I wouldn’t last a week and that’s being optimistic lol

  3. An interesting read about your experience and expectations.

    “Do not justify, apologize for, or rationalize the healthy boundary you are setting. Do not argue. Just set the boundary calmly, firmly, clearly, and respectfully.”
    Crystal Andrus
    I remember our native British guide told me in the beginning of the tour schedule not to maintain IST (Indian standard time) instead stick to British standard time since according to UK standards late means late and no excuses allowed.
    How times are changing!!

  4. Students can take liberty’s. Commitment can differ with individuals in a cohort. I had older and younger mix and I think they balanced well. Same in nurse training with mature students amongst younger learners. Never been privy to teaching a same age group. But did support a Deaf Students on course work. Some thought that, because I was there note taking and handing over lecture content to them afterwards, they do do a jolly, Miss the lecture and go shopping in town instead. The professional body was like the computer joke. ‘Computer says No!’. Mobiles were an issue too. At the lecture tip tapping away under the ‘writing shelf’. Don’t know what it’s called. 😊 Rant away. It’s disrespect to your own commitments. Takes a long, long time of crafting time considerations when lesson planning. All the best.

    • I’d have said that if the student isn’t in class you don’t take notes for him. I once remember a uni lecturer lose his temper and refused to have handouts for those who weren’t there.

      • Thing is Brenda there are various forms and degrees of deafness as you know. Different needs depending upon their communication skills. We trained over five years to work specifically in education. Sign, note taking and lip speaking (not reading). So whatever the student required we could meet demand. The one hiccup were note taking. Profoundly Desf students either watched my interpreting what the lecturer delivered or if lip reading was a strong skill they had, would watch the lecturer speak. Or a lip speaker if a lecturer was difficult to read. Like a beard or such. Notes were taken if the student could watch the lecturer. What I’m trying to say is that all forms of understanding from whatever source is valuable. Not many did actually not attend. We had a support unit inherent for the Coventry colleges and universities. Students dropped by fir moral and feedback support so it became very strong exchange system. But on occasion, when working freelance for the RNID, a couple of students didn’t show a couple of times once they fathomed out the notes were being posted. It was made clear though. No attendance, no support.

      • Great levels of support, and that’s the case with any form of support for disabled students- it needs to be tailored to the individual needs of each student

      • Couldn’t lip speak well at all though. 😆 If you ever turn the television down and watch the presenter/actors lips, sometimes you can read bits and bobs. Sometimes nothing at all. It’s a weird skill.

      • It does. And substitutions of basic words that are difficult to lipread. Change to another that means the same and is easier to read. But not change the word if it is important for specific context. It isn’t just switching your voice off and copying what is spoken. A lot of responsibility’s involved. Cheers Brenda.

    • Hi Brenda,
      This event is relatable, as I have seem my fellow classmates not doing classes and skipping them.
      But these students are few in numbers.
      Majority of the students (almost 95%) come regularly in the class on time.
      They respect the professor. And hear closely what they tell us students.
      Then it’s also true our professors never said ‘no’ when any student demanded break or leave for fair reasons.
      Thankfully our classes finished properly in this semester.
      Maintaining a proper decorum works both the sides; the learners and the teacher/guide both need to understand eachother’s needs and challenges.
      There goal is common. “They’re not enemies.”
      Often, students don’t take things seriously. They should put themselves in the shoes of their teacher and think.

      • Thank you Lokesh. I think culture is very different in our countries. But yes, they should be more respectful and I agree, it does go both ways

  5. So interesting, Brenda. I like the very clear boundary that you drew – the 15 minute late rule is one that I think is very clear from my school days. I can’t wait to hear how it turns out next week. And thank you for the shout out!

  6. Establishing boundaries before anything is important and I would definitely let them know what would happen if that did happen. Thank you for sharing.


  7. You did the right thing, Brenda. Unfortunately, some younger people don’t seem to have any respect for elders these days. When I was growing up, everybody had respect for their elders. If they didn’t, they got punished (and rightly so).

    I witnessed a young shop assistant being rude to an elderly man the other day. The man had purchased some DIY stuff and asked the young assistant if he’d help him put the stuff in the boot of his car. The young man was having none of it and was so rude to the elderly man. Fortunately, myself and a few other customers came to the help of the elderly man.

    • I hope something was said to the assistant … or his manager. Regrettably, that doesn’t always make much difference sometimes

  8. Absolutely did the right thing Brenda. You have to enforce boundaries. Tardiness demonstrates a profound lack of respect for some-else time. Time is the most valuable thing we have. Thank you for sharing 🙏

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