When I taught at a polytechnic between 2005 and 2007, many students asked me why I was so particular about punctuality in handing in work and attending classes. They were good students who were honestly puzzled over timeliness as their parents never complained, even if they were an hour or more late.
Why are parents so ‘patient’? I discovered that many were working on their laptops or talking on their phones while waiting to pick their kids up from school. They did not realise how late their children were. Parents so connected to their workplace unknowingly imply that it is OK to be very late — as long as I can continue working while waiting for you.
I had to address this or my students would regard time as a resource for willful disposal. I would be graduating a bunch of exam-smart workers who could be labeled as having attitude problems by future bosses. My students would then run the risk of being parents who would likewise send this wrong message to their kids.
I told them that they would be graduating with a diploma in biomedical sciences and likely work in hospitals. I asked, in their future workplaces, if they would tell dying patients to wait while they finished replying a string of phone messages? How would they feel if their loved ones lost a chance to live because someone like them were an hour late at work? Their faces turned green. They got the message.
I have since incorporated a box for students to drop in their written assignments before a deadline , after which I remove the box and mark only the assignments in it. Assignments after that get zero marks. I also use a door wedge. Students get five minutes’ grace for my tutorials, after which I wedge the door shut. Everybody knows what happens to their attendance when they can’t get into the classroom.
They can write nasty comments about me in their yearend lecturer evaluation forms, I’m not bothered. The bigger picture of getting them to learn punctuality and responsibility is more important. At home, I teach my kids the same way.