According to William Shakespeare it is ‘Best to arrive three hours too soon than a minute too late’, whereas French King Louis XVIII claimed that punctuality was the ‘kindness of Kings and Queens’.
As the centuries have passed, the importance of arriving on time has not diminished.  For any teacher or trainer who experiences learners being late to their lesson will tell you their feelings of annoyance at the interruption of your lesson and the frustration of having to repeat your instructions to the latecomer.

The extra follow up procedures and the administrative tasks such as letters home, emails to managers and colleagues can become a chore, which can drive teachers or trainers out of the profession.  In addition, from the perspective of the learners who have arrived to your lesson on time the teacher or trainer’s attention is taken away from the delivery of the lesson itself and the transferring of vital information can be disrupted.

Punctuality is a serious issue within education, there is nothing worse than committing your precious time to planning an outstanding lesson for learners to arrive late, unapologetic and unfazed by the impact this has on you or your learners. Think of an important lesson such as an observation, that feeling when you are in full teaching mode and a knock on the door five minutes into a lesson. Thus can disrupt any teacher’s delivery regardless of how experienced they are and often the flow of the lesson fails to recover following a late arrival. This issue of punctuality is nothing new within teaching and training and understanding how to combat this issue varies depending on each institution.
So what is the answer for learners who are consistently late? Do you take a hard line approach? - for a learner who is a minute late do you lock your door and wait for when you are ready to let them in? It sends a clear message to your learners that you do not tolerate lateness, however that learner will miss teaching time and will ultimately need to catch up on the taught content somehow.
Alternatively, do you adopt a softer approach and let your latecomers into the classroom - this minimises the disruption of the lesson and avoids confrontation but can inadvertently send a message to your other learners that you do accept lateness. Possibly making others feel like it is acceptable to arrive late to a class. 

So what is the answer when it comes to punctuality?  Consider these simple steps to help solve your time management woes. 

1 - Ground Rules

Nothing helps more to eradicate lateness of learners than high expectations of the agreed ground rules. It is important early on to highlight the importance of the classroom rules or ‘contract’ in order for a productive and cohesive learning environment to take place. Why not have your classroom rules clearly presented and make reference to these when a learner arrives late.  

2 - Be an Example

One of the great hallmarks of any teacher is to be a role model to your learners. The way that you dress, communicate and even your punctuality habits will all be scrutinised by your learners. The best way to promote good time keeping is to practice what you preach. By arriving to your teaching room or environment early and setting up shows a clear signal that you are proactive, motivated and that you care for your learner’s eagerness to learn. By having a starter activity set up and welcoming learners to your lesson demonstrates an organised and controlled approach.

Arriving late and having learners waiting outside of your teaching room shows a disorganised attitude and your learners are less likely to take your advice seriously. 

3 - Catch up Sessions

Not that this is a requirement for any teacher or trainer to offer catch up sessions. However, if time does allow within your busy schedule you could offer a weekly session for those learners who are late to your class. A benefit of this approach is that learners do have the opportunity to ask you questions on what content they have missed. You could even make the sessions compulsory for those who are late to your lessons.  

4 - Signposting

Is there a genuine reason behind why your learners are late? Perhaps there is something that your learner has not disclosed to you such as a family member is ill or they have to work late. Perhaps speak to the learner after the class and seek out the reasons why lateness is becoming a regular occurrence. If time does allow, why not chat to the latecomer and seek out what support and interventions can be put in place to assist them with their punctuality issue. 

5 - Get your Learners to do the Hard Work

When a learner does arrive late to a lesson why should it be you who has to repeat your instructions? Why not delegate a class member to explain to the latecomer what they have missed? Not only does this allow for you to continue the flow of the lesson but minimises disruptions. The learner who has to explain the instructions will perhaps make the latecomer more aware that they are impacting on other people’s time and this will encourage better punctuality rates. 

6 - Reward Early Arrivals

When welcoming your learners to the lesson it is a good quality to thank them for their time. Even though arriving to a lesson on time should be more of an expectation, the reminder that they are here and on time is a good quality for every learner.  Having interesting and dynamic starter activities will promote curiosity and learners will not want to miss your lesson time. 

7 - Keep Records

For every time a learner is late, it is important to document how many minutes have passed since the start of the class. If this is a serial offender, it would be beneficial to show them how many times they have been late and see where there is a regular occurrence. The best time to conduct a meeting with them would be during an ILP session and show the figures - they may be shocked by their build-up of lateness. If there is a dispute from the learner, then these records can be used as evidence. 

8 - The Late Bench

The late bench was established for learners who sit at a section of the classroom (usually the front) where the latecomer does not impact on the other learning around them. The benefit of this is that learners can complete the work they have missed independently with minimal disruption to the lesson.      

9 - Give Them a Warning

When learners are late, it is best for them to knock on the door and wait outside for when you are ready to greet them and let them into the learning environment. It is best to stay calm and ask them for a reason for being late. It would be best to ask them the reasons they are late and if there is anything you can do to resolve the issue. If they are a repeat offender, then state to them the clear consequences of lateness and that you do not wish to send letters or inform managers of their time management.

It is important to give them a choice and hopefully they can turn this issue around

10 - When you are Late?

So what happens when you arrive late to your own lesson? Whether a meeting overran or an accident occurred on the way to work, lateness happens. If the opportunity arises, try to contact a staff member to open the classroom or training room for learners and see whether they can begin a starter activity or continue with coursework prior to you arriving to the lesson. When a teacher or trainer does arrive late, be honest and simply explain the true reasons as to why you were late- apologise to your learners and suggest a compromise. Perhaps you let your learners leave the class early or you could promise a fun or interactive activity for the next lesson to make up for it.

The main thing to remember not to be flustered, remain calm and follow up on any activities you have said you would carry out 

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash