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Career Questions: Stragglers

Q:  I teach upper elementary in a K-8 school where we share students for various subjects.  I teach reading and language arts; a colleague teaches math and science.  This arrangement works well except for one thing:  my colleague isn’t conscientious about time.  At least twice a week he keeps students several minutes beyond his class time.  Sometimes he keeps the whole class; other times it’s a handful of students who then straggle into my classroom one or two at a time. I like to start my class on time, but it’s impossible with the distraction of students entering late.  I brought the problem to his attention and he promised to do better, but the stragglers persist.  He insists that kids just get really involved in his class and forget the time.  I say it’s not the kids; it’s him (well, I say it to myself).  I don’t want any bad feelings between us, but I’m getting pretty frustrated.

A:  You are right – the problem isn’t the kids, but his failure to plan.  Consequently, it’s important not to put the kids in the middle of a problem they have no control over.

Kids in hallStarting class right on time is an excellent teaching tool, as studies show that the first minutes of class are prime teaching time, setting the tone for the rest of the instruction period. 

Here’s what you can do.  Talk to your colleague again after school and explain calmly that you like to start your class on time and that last week (for example) you lost 6 -10 minutes of prime instruction time.  Multiply that time over 40 weeks’ instruction, and you’re looking at a significant loss of time.  Suggest that he get himself a timer and set it to go off 5 minutes before the end of class.  Be a broken record.  Whatever excuse he gives, say calmly and politely, “I need to have my students on time for my class.  I need to have my students on time for class.”  He may be a recalcitrant learner, but you’ll need to keep him accountable every time your students are late.  And next year, see if you can have your class scheduled before his.




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