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Rule #3:
Make Certain That
Your Kids Are Late to School

Way to go! Your kids are well-rested and well-fed. Everything's great- except they're late for school.

You know how you feel when you’re even a few minutes late to a movie? You're never quite sure if you missed something important, and throughout the movie you’re wondering if you really know what is happening. When your kids come into class late- even a few minutes- they feel the same way. And, they probably are missing something important!

Teachers are strapped for time, so the smart ones hit the day running. First thing in the door, it’s announcements about school events, tests, assignments, projects, field trips; collecting homework; taking roll; sending in the lunch count; doing quick test preparation. All of this happens in the first few minutes of the school day.

Then, your kid comes in.

Late again.

Everybody stops what they are doing to watch him get settled. Don’t worry about interrupting his classmates, think about how your child feels while everyone snickers, rolls their eyes, and stares while he opens his backpack, drops his binder, puts his coat away, hands the teacher his permission slip.

He feels like The Late Kid.

The incompetent, pitiful Late Kid.

Let’s look at it from the teaching and learning angle. If your child is 10 minutes late three times a week, he is missing a half an hour of instruction this week; two hours this month; 20 hours (4 full school days!) this school year. What was that about a few minutes being no big deal? Those minutes add up.

The most important reason to get your child to school on time is that it makes you look bad when you don’t. His teacher is annoyed, and the school attendance secretary is disgusted, but I’m not talking about looking bad to them. You look bad to your own child. When your kid is constantly tardy, you are saying that you are the kind of parent that does not care about school and learning.

"Oh, no!” you protest, “I most certainly do care about school! School is important!"

Blah, blah, blah.

Actions speak louder than words.

Your kids know when you care about something. If school was a priority, you'd get them there on time. You would wake up earlier, pack lunches the night before- you’d figure it out. By pulling up to that school after everybody else is in class, you are making yourself perfectly clear.

It’s the same thing with phone calls and visits during school hours.

I am an experienced and dedicated multi-tasker, but I cannot teach your kids and answer the phone at the same time. Ringing phone = no teaching. If teachers had enough time to cover the curriculum they are expected to cover, it would be no big deal to be interrupted half a dozen times a day. But, teachers do NOT have enough time. As it is, they must squeeze in actual teaching around assemblies, fire drills, lunch, recess, library, PE, students being pulled out of the classroom for testing or speech or hearing or resource, etc. When teachers are finally in the classroom with their students, they need to be able to teach. Let’s not interrupt them unless it is really, really important.

To those of you thinking, “Why can’t students answer the phone?” my response is, “Get real!” If the class has a Phone Monitor (for crying out loud, what’s next?), that student must stop whatever he or she is doing (reading? ‘riting? ‘rithmatic?), listen to the peanut gallery yelling at him to answer the phone, get up, go to the phone, answer it, pay attention to the caller, and then, invariably, INTERRUPT THE TEACHER ANYWAY! Having students answer the phone is not helpful. Trust me.

Things come up. Plans change. I am not saying that you can NEVER call the classroom. Just please don’t make a habit of it. Calling every day to tell your child to take the bus or meet his sister after school is ridiculous. Think about it. There are 20 to 34 children in most elementary school classrooms. If even a few parents call once a day with their daily emergency… when can the teacher teach?

Get a system- and use it outside of school time. Figure out who is picking up and dropping off. Make some decisions about lunch. And, honestly, must you discuss everything with your kids? If you and your spouse pick up at the same time and place, why do you need to call your kids and tell them which smiling face will be there?

One year, I had a fourth grade student whose mother called almost every day- usually right around story time, the class’ favorite time. The reasons for the calls varied: Mom was going to be a little late picking up her daughter; Mom wanted her daughter to wait for her brother after school; Mom had to work. I understood that this woman had four children, a very busy household and an erratic work schedule, so I tried to give her some leeway. At the same time I wondered, “Must we ALL deal with your schedule every day?”

Get them there on time and try not to interrupt. Thanks.

Better late than never,
but never late is better.

Return to advice for parents.

Go on to Rule #4.