For years and years we have had an immense tardy problem on campus. Literally, the bell to start 1rst period would go BOING at 7:30 but if you stood at the front gate of school you would see hundreds — I mean HUNDREDS of students, not 10 or 20… like 300-400 — just kinda lazily sauntering in. Even at 7:38, you’d still see the same thing.
So me, I would go Draconian on my students. While the rest of the high school did whatever they did, a tardy to my class got you 1 warning and then meant 6 hours of Saturday school and 25 demerits. And if you were tardy twice within 2 weeks, I tripled the fine, 18 hours worth of Saturday School and 75 demerits. 3 seconds, 3 minutes or 30 minutes, all the same to me. Tardy is tardy.
Like I said, Draconian.
But it worked. While the rest of Lynwood High had kids who just sort of loafed without any sense of urgency to get to their classrooms, kids in my classes would literally run.
The fact is, you just can’t run a great operation if people think they can show up whenever they want. We start at the bell. And if I don’t enforce the rules, it makes folks who do show up on time look like suckers for having done so because there are no consequences.
Another reason I go so psycho on tardies is because it sets the tone for classroom management in regards to everything else I do. If they think I am a freak about being 18 seconds late to class, God only knows how bonkers he’s gonna go if we do things like tag up the walls in the room and nonsense like that, they think.
It’s the broken window theory as applied to behavior. And the truth is, it’s worked remarkably well. (NOTE: If you are not familiar with the broken window theory, read that link — it’s GREAT!)
Well, this year we have a new principal and he came to me asking about how to improve behavior during lunchtime and I told him, the problems didn’t start at lunch — they started first thing in the morning. I mean the message we are sending kids from the moment school starts is that, “Look, Lynwood High has rules but we don’t really enforce them too enthusiastically. So when it comes to behavior on campus, you get a lot of leeway. You can kinda do what you want.”
To wit, I said, look at all the tardies in the morning. Then I explained to him the broken window theory.
3 days later we started The Purple Crush. At the first bell — and each and every other tardy bell during the day — we do a huge sweep and all the kids that get caught up in it have to sit out on the bleachers for 119 minutes. (We are on block schedule.) No talking. No eating. No nothing. Just bleacher detention.
And let me tell you, it looks miserable.
The first 2 days we had scores of kids sitting in the bleachers moaning and hating life. Now, there’s but a handful. Kids stride purposefully towards class at 7:55. Teachers LOVE it! It’s changed the school. And what happens? Kids sent txt messages to the media and they do a story on The Crackdown. Check it out — IMHO, they kinda paint us as a bunch of unfair, tyrannical beasts that need to be reigned in like we are at the edge of violating The Bill of Rights.
Kids are going to class, the Purple Crush has improved our campus greatly and ABC News takes us to task. Geesh, can you ever win?