A lot of time here at Teachnet is devoted to sharing teaching techniques, classroom organizational tips, and other sundry ideas on how to make the teaching experience more fulfilling. None of this seems to matter, however, if one doesn’t have the students present to put these concepts to any use. And receiving consistent attendance and punctuality from all your students may prove to be even more of a daunting task than it sounds.
Because of the many different approaches people can take on this matter, most of which are effective, we are not going to tell you one tried and true method that will keep your students in class with open eyes at all times. No such panacea exists. We will, however, give you a few ideas from our subscribers that have worked for them.
Stress to your students (and parents) that without excellent attendance and punctuality, credits cannot be earned. Period. If being in your classroom and listening to your instruction were not important and necessary, it really would not be required. There will be disbelievers, of course – especially if they are close to graduating from high school and have heard the stories of never having to attend their college classes, merely showing up for the tests and passing with flying colors. But high school is not college, despite the myth many seniors try to pass by us. And certain differences will exist.
There are those who do operate under a very lenient policy of allowing students to come in whenever they like. If they are late, they are required to discover what they missed from another student. The same would go for a student that missed a class period. There are no penalties given by the teacher, who may feel that the penalty incurred by working harder to understand the assignment is retribution enough. This policy, obviously, is easily abused and can only be handled by mature individuals who care about the education they receive. In our virtually free public school system, though, this is not usually the case.
Another way to go, with a little bit more structure is to allow any absence to be not only excused but erased if the student comes in for an hour make up before or after school (at your discretion) within one week of the absence. If they choose not to, they are still responsible not only for the assignments, but, more importantly, for the learning they missed. In many cases, make up lessons are essential; no work sheets or chapter questions can replace a constructivist discovery lesson. This still requires self-motivation, which many do not have.
One tactic that works with students who haven’t given up on themselves as learners is to call parents the first time they skip and require a parent-student-teacher conference the second and subsequent times. That forces the families to either try harder or to give up. Although this sounds rather harsh, the parents should understand if you explain that in some cases schools are learning war zones in which students can be casualties. It is important to make sure these students are not left by the way side to give up on themselves. And this policy makes sure parents are aware of the problem and make a conscious effort with their children to either attend, learn and achieve or to deliberately become a disheartening statistic.
Sometimes merely keeping track of the students’ tardies is motivation enough for them to cut them down. Require students to go to the office and get an admit to class before they can enter late. If a student accumulates three tardies he serves a one hour after school detention. Some tardies are excusable: weather, doctor appointments, family emergencies, etc. This plan is not fool proof, however. Surprisingly enough (or maybe not so surprising to many of us), parents will make up a barrage of excuses for their child when he oversleeps or doesn’t feel like going in the morning. But it will cut down on those who “hang out” in the hallways or try to sneak outside for a quick smooch or smoke behind the addition in the back of the school. One problem you may run into is increased skipping school from students who know that their next tardy will result in an after school detention. And those who don’t care about detentions or who refuse to attend them then have a feeling of empowerment. That coupled with their obvious apathy is a dangerous combination.
Remember that no one answer will solve all of your truancy and tardiness problems. But adapting these ideas into the way you approach your students will help you keep some of the control you need to have a smooth-operating classroom. With all your students there, you can really get down to business.