I arrived at a K-6th grade elementary school after the tardy bell rang. Wrapped around the corner of the building from the office, tardy students waited in line. Not just a few. But many students. And more late students arrived. One after another. There were too many to count.
When I met with the restorative practices site lead, I said, “I saw lots of students in the tardy line. How many tardies do you have?”
“We have over a 100 tardies a day. It is a real problem.”
I ask the question, “Understanding that tardy students are typically a parent/caregiver challenge, what could we do with the students to get them here on time if their parent/caregiver isn’t able to?”
We brainstormed and came up with an idea. We didn’t know if it would work, but with over a hundred tardies a day, it was worth a try.
The school site began offering “Tony’s Tardy Table.” A centrally located outdoor table was chosen for the actual tardy table. Tony, one of the yard supervisors, manned the tardy table during the first recess every day for 1st – 6th grades. Recess was by grade levels, so the tardy students weren’t there all at one time. Teachers started sending a few tardy students every day to the tardy table.
The Vice-Principal gave the yard supervisor on-going guidance. She suggested, “Find out what obstacles the children are facing. Talk to them with gentleness and kindness so they don’t feel bad. Let them know we’re there to help them.”
Tony started by asking each student, “What’s the reason you were late to school today? What are other reasons you’re late to school?”
Since complications from home life challenges can cause chronic tardiness, you can imagine the types of answers he heard from students.
“My dad had his friends over last night. He drank too much. I had to wake him up.”
Another said, “Our car is broke.”
“I couldn’t find my shoes.”
“My sister is supposed to wake us up, but she forgot to set the alarm.”
“The lights aren’t working. My mom couldn’t wash my clothes.”
There were legitimate reasons some students were occasionally late. And there were always students with tummy aches and anxiety about going to school. Author Stacey Zeiger stated the problems with tardiness. “The most crucial learning hours of a school day are the morning hours, because they are when students are most attentive. Students who are tardy miss the beginning of their morning classes, and they also cause a distraction when they arrive late to class.”
Tony began talking with several students each recess. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month.
Word got around, as it often does in urban schools. Some parents gave students their phone number with instructions to call if they needed a ride. Some students learned to set alarm clocks or set their clothes and school items out the night before. Others rode a bike or called a friend for a ride. Slowly more students showed up on time.
By the end of the year, there were fewer than 25 tardies a day! These students learned excellent life skills and took responsibility even though a parent/caregiver was not accessible to get them to school on time. Imagine how proud these students were that they got to school on time. Not only that, but they stopped the negative effects of tardiness that can contribute to poor school success. Kudos to all involved who helped with a school-wide challenge.
Zeiger, Stacy, eHow Contributor. The Impact of Tardiness on School Success. [No date]. Harley Elementary School. https://www.blaineschools.org/
Image Source: Late Clipart [clipart-library.com_clipart_448084]