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Chronic Tardiness: Definition & Causes

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Chronic tardiness (the act of repetitive late arrival) can have a lasting impact on students. This lesson reviews some common causes for chronic tardiness based on the age of the student.

Chronic Tardiness

You've just gotten the class started. Your students are working on a math warm-up activity and you've just submitted the computerized attendance roster when a late student comes in. The entrance is disruptive and, now, you must adjust your schedule to accommodate the late comer.

The previous scenario is one that every teacher has had to deal with in their career. Teachers understand that sometimes students will be late; however, when a student becomes chronically tardy, it is a real concern both for the student and classroom continuity. What causes chronic tardiness?

This lesson reviews common causes of chronic tardiness and its impact on a student.

Early Education: Chronic Tardiness

In elementary school, students tend to have one primary teacher and classroom. The morning attendance is the only time that attendance (including tardiness) is recorded during the day. At this age, parents are considered responsible for getting their child to school on time, so it is understandable to look to the parents for an explanation. What are the primary causes of chronic tardiness in elementary age students?

Issues that frequently cause tardiness in this age group are medical, transportation and family based issues.

Medical issues include circumstances in which the parent or child have a chronic illness that make early mornings difficult. Early doctor appointments or the need for morning medical treatments would also be deemed a medical issue causing chronic tardiness.

If a family is without a way to transport a child to school each day, this could cause chronic tardiness. It could be that the family car is needed for an adult to get to work or a single family car breaks down, each of these cases would leave no vehicle for getting children to school.

Finally, general family issues encompass situations in which cultural differences may impede on a child regularly making it to school on time. A single family with many children in different schools could also have trouble ensuring all get to school at the right time, thus creating a chronic tardiness problem for one or more. Any general family issue that results in chronic tardiness would fit in this category.

Parents should know that in early childhood, chronic tardiness can cause a disruption to the learning process for both the late child and other children in the classroom. Missing early morning academic warm-up time or readiness activities hinders a child's learning process for the day. In fact, chronic tardiness can impact a student's academic success throughout elementary school. Furthermore, studies have shown that chronic tardiness can result in reduced acceptance of personal responsibility based on the modelling of parental figures' lack of responsibility in getting them to school on time.

Older Students: Chronic Tardiness

In older students, we focus more on student responsibility. One main difference is the number of times a student has the opportunity to be tardy rises drastically as students transition from a single classroom education to multiple classrooms throughout the day. For example, most high schools have six periods a day, giving students six opportunities to be late to class each day. Even if parents get them to school on time in the morning, it is up to the students to get themselves to each of their classes on time throughout the day.

However, many older students walk, ride bikes, bus, or even drive themselves to school. Sometimes, older students are even left to get themselves ready while parents leave for work earlier than the student needs to leave for school.

What are the primary causes of chronic tardiness in older students? Interestingly, we can start with the same list of concerns that existed for young children; medical, transportation and family issues.

Are there any medical issues that are causing the student to be late? Something to consider here would be bathroom necessity and availability between classes. There may be medical reasons why an older student has difficulty waking in the morning.

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