What if we stopped thinking of tardiness as students being rude and instead see it as a result of other things unrelated to us as educators?
Discussing with both occasional and habitual tardy students about what I could do to help them make it to class on time I discovered that there were three specific reasons for lateness.
1. Anxiety or stress. These students needed a chance to calm their nervous system to feel safe and ready to enter the classroom and to learn.
2. Need to eat. These students had very tightly scheduled lives and were late because they did not want to seem rude to their teacher or neighbours.
3. Need time to "switch" their brains. These students were not feeling ready for the daily quiz or lecture, or were coming directly from another class that was very different, and they needed something to help them switch their brains to learning English.
Discussing this information with one of my mentors, Bil Roberts, I learned that he had identified this same pattern of behaviour many years earlier and had successfully addressed it through the incorporation of Ten Minutes of Mindfulness at the beginning of every class. So, under his guidance, I piloted using this pedagogical approach the Winter 2014-15 semester.
Just as Bil predicted, at first I thought I could not afford that ten minutes of every class. Now that I've seen how dramatically it improves students' readiness and willingness to learn (and the students now beat me to the classroom!), I know I can't afford not to take that time.
Taking this time to help students make the transition to learning with me even seemed to help me too feel ready to teach. Since I have always loved to teach, I was surprised and delighted by my own personal reaction to Ten Minutes of Mindfulness and would encourage every faculty member to at least pilot it for one semester.
I am continuing to offer Ten Minutes of Mindfulness at the beginning of every class in the regular classroom. I put up a clip on the projector of a fireplace burning, turn down the lights, and ask that students remain silent for those ten minutes. Students use that time to rest, eat, or study.