Originally Posted by 6up
hey fellow teachers & associates
Does anyone have any creative strategies to deal with high school students that are habitually late and/or absent? I've tried everything...detentions, push ups, calls home and nothing seems to deter it? Looking forward to your ideas.
It's frustrating- are the kids who have issues with being late or absent still fulfilling the state or provincial learning objectives? The fundamental problem is, of course, that carrots and sticks are terrible motivators for changing people's long-term behavior. The issues that things like detentions and push-ups cause seems to me much greater than the seeming short-term benefits they derive. I'm wondering, if you were constantly late to work and your principal made you do pushups during lunch in the staff room, called your wife or kept you in on weekends it wouldn't increase your intrinsic motivation to be a good professional. If anything, it would create either hostile feelings, cause you to consider that staying late at school is a punishment (when in reality putting the idea of 'being in school = bad' or that exercise = punishment).
When I have kids who are habitually late I try to understand why it is they're late. There are hundreds of reasons that we could discuss here, but at the end of the day it doesn't really matter. Do the kids consider your class important? Interesting? Crucial? Are the kids having issues at home? Are they 'fashionably late' for a reaction out of you (which leads to a worse problem- the dreaded you vs. them). Fuck, are they late because mom or dad are shitty at getting them to school on time?
Talk to the other teachers about the specific kids who are constantly late. Are they late to everyone's class? Only mornings? After lunch?
A lot of places really enforce a closed-door policy. To me, that's the complete opposite direction we should be going... Sometimes, however, it might be ok. The admin at our school picks random days to have a bell 'lock down' one period. If you're in the hall after the second bell, you go to the cafe to grab a late slip- their problem. That's their business I suppose (real cognitive dissonance here on my part hmmm). The school I'm at right now doesn't have bells. Teachers dismiss and begin class according to their clocks and prerogative... you know... just like work/university. Kids deal with it fine.
Habitual lates aren't going to suddenly become model students because you're giving them pushups or detentions. Very few kids I know react positively to tough love but somehow it's the first tool on the bench most teachers reach for. Drives me nuts. You don't have to be their friend but looking at the big picture really makes a difference. I spent some time in a connections program (for kids who are on the wrong side of the law, into drugs, been kicked out of the system) and that really forced me to understand that kids showing up a few minutes late for your class, chewing gum, wearing hats, texting and whatever else are really fucking weak ways to 'rebel' or somehow make them better people if they refrain.