I will admit it; one of my biggest pet peeves is arriving late to a meeting, appointment, or event. It is challenging, especially on these dark mornings, to get out the door to be on time for school, but I try to live by the mantra that arriving 15 minutes early is considered on time and being on time is late.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. It’s not possible to always be on time because, after all, life happens. The gas light on the car glows orange, lunches haven’t been made, or something goes awry in the house just as I’m about to leave, but often tardiness is simply a result of not planning well or trying to accomplish too much in too short a period.

As parents and educators, it is vital that we teach children the value of punctuality. Not only is it polite and respectful of others, but it is a critical life lesson for children to understand how much time they need to successfully meet their responsibilities.

Arriving to school on time is an important way that we can teach our children to teach the importance of timeliness. Researchers in this area consider lateness to be a form of absenteeism. As such, the negatives associated with missing school are also associated with tardiness. Articles that have been written on this topic underscore the educational importance of arriving to school on time, for both the tardy student and those who arrive punctually. My own experience watching this situation for the past two decades aligns with research on the topic.

  • Late arrivals disrupt the rhythm of a class that is already in progress. Teachers invariably must stop class to welcome the new student and catch her/him up on the lesson in progress.
  • Late students are typically rushed, thus their entry to school is accompanied with anxiety and stress – not a great way to begin anyone’s day.
  • Students benefit from social time before school which does not exist when they are late. As other students develop morning routines and relationships, chronically tardy students miss out on those opportunities.
  • Habits established in elementary and middle school persist through high school and into adulthood.
  • Increased levels of tardiness may be associated with school difficulties throughout students’ academic and professional lives.
  • Being part of a community requires mutual respect, including respecting others’ time. Habitual tardiness undermines crucial working relationships between students and teachers.

At Shaker Road School, we have purposefully designed our program to facilitate and encourage early drop off to help families with busy work schedules, but also so that students have time to transition from home to school life. As adults, we don’t enjoy arriving to work late and scrambling to get to a meeting. It is preferable to arrive with a few minutes to spare to grab a cup of coffee, look at our daily calendar, organize our thoughts, say hello to colleagues, and then begin the day. Easing this transition is even more important for children as they learn how to assume responsibility and be productive students. They benefit greatly from time to collect their thoughts, greet their friends, and organize their materials before rushing straight into busy school days. Helping students regularly arrive to school on time (which to me means 15 minutes early) helps them, and us as educators, get the most out of them every day.

Some of the best conversations I have with students occur on these frosty mornings hanging out at Heron’s Hideout or the pavilion. I can check in with them about their progress in school, get to know them a bit better outside of a classroom context, and observe their social behaviors with peers. This time often proves invaluable. The gift of a few extra minutes in the morning pays huge dividends now and well into a student’s future.

Matt Hicks
Matt Hicks, Principal