Saved(?) By the Bell

Athena ScalziYesterday, I was driving past a local elementary school and I saw on their electronic sign out front the words, “Doors Open 8:25, Tardy Bell 8:35”. Ten minutes. They’re giving kids a ten-minute window to get into the school?

I know what you’re thinking, you could just drop your kid off before 8:25 and they could just wait outside for the doors to open, right? That’s fine for September and maybe even part of October, but as soon as winter comes, are you really going to have your kid stand outside for half an hour in twenty-degree weather?

Of course, this ten-minute window is a COVID-related change. Don’t ask me how it helps anything, but supposedly it does. But this post isn’t about COVID rules at schools, this is about late bells, and how fundamentally fucked up they are.

This is an elementary school we’re talking about. The students do not drive themselves. The students (unless they walk/bike) are completely dependent on adults to get them to school. So when a kid shows up, five minutes late, do you really think that was their intention? Maybe their mom overslept, maybe their friends’ parents that come pick them up had to stop and get gas, setting them back by three measly minutes that end up making the kids late. And what happens? They get in trouble. Legit discipline like detentions or being yelled at.

This isn’t some seventeen year old that stopped for iced coffee on the way to school and made themselves late. This is a seven year old child who isn’t at fault for their dad’s car not starting. Why are we putting the blame on literal children who are learning their fucking ABC’s for being five minutes late? Is it because it’s not like you can punish the adults at fault, so you just teach the child that the failings of others are on them?

As a kid, I can promise you that one of the things that made me the most distraught was when I got in trouble for something I didn’t do. When the kid next to me was talking and I was the one that got yelled at, despite me claiming innocence, that shit messed me up! That shit sucks, and the fact that we take the actions of adults and pin it on their kids is just wild.

Even if a kid is a walker/biker, and they’re ten minutes late, maybe consider asking them what happened that caused them to be late. Maybe they fell off their bike and sat there and cried for five minutes before continuing. Maybe their dog got out before they left and they were home alone and had to get it back in. There are so many circumstances that are out of a child’s control that we don’t consider. We just blindly dish out discipline because it’s all the school system knows: punishing children.

Back to the ten-minute window thing, don’t they realize how much pressure that puts on the parents? To time their morning perfectly enough to get their kid to school within a ten-minute window? Seems kinda tough to try to cram a couple hundred kids through one door in the span of ten minutes. The kids are there all day, for like eight hours, why not let them in at eight, or even 8:15?

I’m sick of the way we treat children like their lives don’t matter, their reasons for being late or even missing school don’t matter, just the fact that they are late/missed is what counts. We never cut kids any breaks despite them being LITERAL EIGHT YEAR OLDS. It’s weird. And wrong.

Anyways, my rant is complete. Have a nice day.


56 Comments on “Saved(?) By the Bell”

  1. The whole system of school bells, detentions, and late slips was invented to mimic the systems of 19th-century factories, so that they would be prepared for their employers to enforce a similar discipline. Its continued existence is just one of many ways modern schools are pointlessly punitive.

  2. When I was in junior high (maybe 12-14 yo), on the way to school one day, the bus got into a minor accident–the flatbed in front of us was holding the long, prepared pieces of wood that are used for telephone poles. The flatbed stopped short, and a couple of the poles hit the bus windshield. Not hard enough for a full break, and nobody was hurt, but enough to crack the windshield. The driver let the dispatcher know about the accident, and they let the school know, so we weren’t counted late, even though we got there about a half hour after the first class started.

  3. @David Arthur, I’ve heard that before and it makes a great point. Our entire education system needs a serious revamp, especially early education. I know there have been a lot of studies on the best ways to teach and learn, which often varies greatly from student to student, but we seem to still be stuck with a model that was created a century ago. And teaching to standardized tests have made it even worse.

    I’d much rather see an emphasis on logic, philosophy and critical thinking at a young age, than rote learning of history and facts without the mental tools to evaluate and analyze.

  4. This is a great piece. late bells for any level below high school or late middle school are unnecessary

  5. The only bell I ever cared about was the final bell to get the heck out of Dodge. In fact, don’t recall any others. . . . (Recess, maybe? Heck, it was a long time ago.)

    As for dropping kids off early, you put a jacket, hat, and gloves on ’em. Thirty minutes won’t hurt ’em. In fact, let ’em walk their little butts to school.

  6. The only part of your perfectly reasonable rant which I don’t grasp is the objection to kids waiting outside in cold weather for twenty minutes. [pause] Uphill both ways.

  7. This is a great rant, Athena. I agree completely. It tells you something about what these administrators think about children, and about people in general.

  8. Not to mention that getting a bunch of students through a set of doors, hanging up coats and such, and to their classrooms in 10 minutes is not what one wants if one wants the students to stay 6 feet apart and not crowd the door.

  9. Not to mention ‘get students inside, hanging up their coats and to their classrooms while keeping them 6 feet apart’ is a tall order in 10 minutes..

  10. Standing ovation!
    Bells are also tough on teachers – guess who only has 10 minutes to pee? The entire staff!

  11. It’s preparation for their possible work lives, I guess. Every job I’ve ever had involved a time clock. If you arrive early, you have to wait, not getting paid, so most people push against the clock a little, arriving in the nick, as it were. With attendant penalties for tardiness. Hurry up and wait, all the way to retirement…

    Clocks may be the worst human invention. May be: we have some doozies.

    As Diamond Dave spake: I don’t feel tardy.

  12. Oh yeah. At my secondary school, a bunch of kids came by school bus from a fair distance away, through some very busy roads. Of course, every time the bus was late, they all got late marks and eventually reports and shit for something that was 100% out of their control, when they were getting up earlier than nearly everyone else at the school to be there on time. It’s unfair, and is mostly likely to penalise kids whose parents work, and kids who have to take public transport, which is soooo reliable during the rush hour.

  13. As a parent of 4 in school right now I think you are misunderstanding this. It applied even before Covid. The reason is that teachers and admins are not in the classroom to supervise the kids. As a parent I either need to pay for before school care for my youngers or sit in my car in front of the school. The olders need to time control themselves if they walk, bike or drive to school. And I say that as coming from upstate NY where weather can be really rough and where I did need to pay for before school care for my younger kids. As I work virtually know I drive them to school and wait until the bell rings. Just as the other parents who don’t want to pay for before school care do.

  14. I work at an elementary school and it doesn’t work quite the way you imply. I think there are some assumptions you are making that may or may not be true (and some valid points as well).

    Here is how it works at our school (back when we were at school. We’re not in remote learning which is horrible, but necessary for now).

    Kids can start arriving at 7:30 a.m. They don’t wait outside. They wait inside. And this is California, where it is much warmer than where you live. If they arrive before 7:30 a.m. their parents are called and told NOT to drop them off early. We have had parents drop them off in the darkness as early as 5:30 a.m. in winter when no one was at school, but that is another story.

    Once they arrive, they sit in the hallway for 10 minutes (for those few that arrive early, usually about 10 – 20 -Our school has about 450 children to compare). After 10 minutes they go to the cafeteria for breakfast. We offer breakfast to everyone. At 7:45 a.m. we have before school recess until 8 a.m. when school starts. If you are late by about 5 minutes, you are marked tardy.

    In my class, if you are late, 8:05 a.m. or later, I ask why as you come in. This is minor thing, not a major one (though it probably varies teacher by teacher). I need to know why a student is late. Their may be some issue I need to know about. It is also marked on the student’s report card (the number of tardies along with the number of absences).

    As a classroom teacher there are other things at work here as well that we have to deal with. I have 30 kids in my class. We need to have a semblance of timeliness so that we can all get to work. Do I try to start the day with things that aren’t as important so late kids can trickle in? Of course. Sometimes they trickle in hours late. Sometimes they have good reasons. Sometimes they don’t. Rarely is it the fault of the child. Nevertheless, children have to learn how to deal with their circumstances and as a teacher I am there to help them learn. Sadly, I have had students who were late because their parents were irresponsible and it horrified the student. I would pull any child aside and talk with them privately about what they can do to mitigate the problem. Sometimes there is no easy or simple answer.

    The important thing is communication. Both with the student and the parent. Communication and compassion. And please don’t confuse compassion with a lowering of standards or letting people off the hook. Those aren’t the same things. I try to set high standards for myself and everyone else but also show compassion to my students and be aware of their vast differences in circumstances and try to solve problems where we can.

    Anyway, this is just one teacher’s perspective. Hope it helps. I teach 5th grade.

  15. Well-ranted. As a rant fan, I know a good rant when I see one, I have seen some grand ones, and that is a first rate rant, and about a worthy topic.

  16. I am a teacher. I have been doing it for 26 years. There is never a time we should be yelling at students. Late bells are stupid. Jumping to conclusions on who did something, also stupid. Not admitting when you are wrong….biggest mistake a teacher can ever make. Kids are smart and they know. You will be judged accordingly.

  17. A+ rant! fully agree.

    to Brown Robbin – that’s my all time favorite line in a song :)

  18. There’s a fascinating flip side to lateness issues, accidently discovered about 20 years ago by a group of Haifa day care centers that decided to deal with parents coming late to pick up their children by charging fines. Lateness increased dramatically, as suddenly the morality of lateness became irrelevant, The centers all cancelled their fines after a year, but it was too late. Parents had adjusted their schedules and didn’t change back.

  19. Gail, it’s nice that you have the disposable income to pay for before-school care for your kids as you went off to your minimum-wage job with no leeway at all on when you get your butt wherever it needs to be exactly when it needs to be…

    No, wait, that’s not how it is for you, is it?

    You have a job you can now do virtually, which means you haven’t had a minimum wage job in many years. You have a car, and you can afford to burn gas sitting in that car on cold mornings while waiting for the school doors to open.

    The point, of course, is that none of this is in the control of the younger kids. The kids too young to transport themselves, and too far from the school to walk, are dependent on the adults transporting them. But it’s the kids, not the parents, who get detention, or demerits, or whatever discipline the school uses to get there within a ten-minute window.

    Back in what are officially The Good Old Days, according to many with a strong attachment to Rules and Order and No Excuses, we did not have a long-latency, relatively high lethality, highly contagious, pandemic virus going around. Proper safety precautions did not included maintaining a six-foot empty circle around yourself (or masks, either, but that seems less relevant to this particular problem.)

    Also, a lot more kids were allowed to walk or bike relatively long distances, if necessary, to get to school, because it wasn’t yet considered child endangerment.

    And I still bitterly resented punishments for things other kids did, and for screw-ups that were not in my control, but in the control of my parents, who often had different priorities than I did. Such as, you know, ensuring that they were both able to get to work, in opposite directions, within a narrow time frame, with one car. No, buying a second car was not a practical alternative. While getting me to school was important, projects that had to be done at home, and often required parental cooperation, were not so important in my parents’ eyes.

    Some of my schoolmates had parents who were alcoholics. They were already taking on a lot of adult responsibility at home, and doing that cut into their ability to perfectly control what time they arrived at school.

    And, sorry, but yes, PART of what the teachers and administrators are there to do IS to supervise kids. Not the main point of the job, but an essential part of being able to do it. The kids need a wider window of time than ten minutes to get into the school, especially if you don’t want crowding, and COVID-19 exposure, as they all rush into the building.

    Stop blaming the kids.

    And Athena acknowledged in her post that older teens do, indeed, have more control–though not total, because a lot of things can, and occasionally will, happen that couldn’t possibly have been planned for.

  20. @Jeff – and anyone else thinking about “what is school for?” or “what should school do?” – I highly recommend Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin. It’s either a long essay or a short book, depending on how you look at it. It can be found as…

    • …a plaintext version on –
    • …a fancy-graphics PDF –
    • …a free audiobook on Bandcamp –

    (I have no affiliation with him, I just think it’s a great essay, and he generally has a lot of insightful things to say.)

  21. I live in the country, and my daughter is usually bussed to school. Now with COVD, we only have busses 3 days a week (not enough drivers). My daughter is so paranoid about being late she would rather not go to school than to be potentially 5 minutes late.

    It sounds like the message is oversold.

  22. Athena: I love that you have this platform to share your thoughts…and these are some good ones. Thank you.

    Becca Stareyes: that was my reaction – let’s squeeze all the kids into the building at the same time to make sure they’re all exposed to each other..

    Christopher Daley: thank you. A good teacher is priceless.

    william e emba: interesting. I guess it’s a matter of “It’s ok to be late if I’m paying for it.” On the other hand, I seem to recall seeing that some library systems that canceled late fees saw better return rates and increased participation. (Pre-COVID, of course.)

  23. When I was in middle school (called “junior high” back then, at least in California), we not only had bells, but student “hall monitors”–I was made one, although I can’t recall why–who wore blue sashes with gold braid, and who were stationed at intervals along the halls between classes to assure orderly progress (one way along one side, the other way on the other), no roughhousing, no one out of class without a hall pass, or other transgressions. We were even empowered to issue tickets, undue accumulation of which resulted in detentions, demerits, etc.

    It didn’t take me long to realize that “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and turn in my sash in embarrassed disgust, to the astonishment of most of my peers and not a few of the teachers. I wonder now whether the fact that my mother was a Holocaust refugee had anything to do with it. She never pressured me, and in fact made a determined attempt to be a Cub Scout den mother. It wasn’t until I was old enough to want to join the Boy Scouts that she told me that I couldn’t–she admitted that she simply couldn’t handle the brown uniform shirts.

    A good argument for Waldorf or Montessori schools…

  24. Actually, my first thought was “They don’t have to go to school until 8.30???”. Lucky little snots. I never went to a school that started any later than 8AM until I went to University. I walked to school until high school, when I took a public bus. I’m not a morning person, and I never was. I was late on more than once occasion. Well, tbh, I was late more than almost anyone, and I could be understating that. I learned not to care, and to find amusing the interminable lectures about how I should get up earlier, or leave earlier, or whatever bs the exasperated school disciplinarian was wasting his/her breath on. Maybe it was my passive/aggressive method for teaching them futility. IDK.

  25. As a kid I lived at the bottom of a long, steep driveway. One winter we had just endless ice storms. I live quite a bit farther north than my school (it was private school) and so often we had ice when school didn’t, and I was expected to be there on time.

    I distinctly remember sitting in the front seat of my dad’s purple Saab wishing as hard as I could that this time, this time, we would make it past the fence instead of sliding backwards through a row of trees back to the house. Did I think about the danger we were in? No, I thought about being frowned at by my teachers and teased by my classmates for being late. Nothing caused a freak out faster than the possibility of being late for school.

    My mom said the best thing that happened for her stress level was 1) when we moved and started taking the train to school and it wasn’t her responsibility to get me there on time anymore and 2) when I went to college and suddenly she wasn’t responsible for anyone else getting into town on time. So when she spun out the minivan into a snowbank she said “to heck with this” and went home.

    Yes you need to be on time to life, and in some jobs and professions that will matter more than others. But for many (most) of those jobs you will be in charge of your own transportation.

    I agree firmly with Athena, elementary school kids are not physically, mentally or emotionally capable of being in charge of getting to school on time. They should not be punished.

  26. At the risk of everyone elses ire, I completely understand why late bells exist, and respectfully disagree that lateness is always the fault of parents or traffic.

    First, I substitute taught in the Denver area for two years while going back to school for a graduate degree. Having students, especially in the younger grades, come in 2-15 minutes after the bell rings is incredibly disruptive. Watch a classroom teacher. From the moment the bell rings, he or she begins settling the kids down, especially in the first period, helping them shift from their outdoor “I wanna play” mode to “I am ready to learn” mode.

    Why so quick?

    Because in the U.S. we expect teachers to cram 8+ hours of material into about 6 hours of class time, and 200 days of learning into 180 or less. Every second counts, especially in elementary school!

    Allow just the morning class another 5 minutes of non-learning each day, and that’s 45 hours or almost 7 school days lost per year, increasing the school day differential between the U.S. and other high-education countries from 20 days to 27 (4 weeks to ~5.4 weeks of school). Now imagine the impact of 5 minutes lost per class per day….

    Secondly, from purely personal experience, 80% of the time my son was late to class was not because of me or his mom, but because he would simply not get ready in time! He was always awakened in plenty of time, fed a nourishing, tasty breakfast, reminded and prompted escalating to cajoling and then dire threats to simply GET TO THE CAR NOW!!!!

    By the time he was in 3rd grade, he was a little too big for me to just tuck up under my arm.

    NEVER underestimate the amount of time or number of excuses a reluctant grade schooler can come up with for dragging his/her heels! :-)

    (FYI: He is now 18 and STILL cannot bring himself to be ready on time…unless it’s for an Overwatch game.)

  27. Excellent rant. The one time I got physically disciplined in school (this was in Georgia in the 70s when they still hit kids; I don’t know if they do now) it was because a parent forgot to initial my graded test and send it back with me on the bus. Almost 55 and still bitter.

  28. The entire way that school (public at least) is structured is fundamentally bad for children and contrary to how humans naturally learn and develop. Lee, respectfully, children don’t need to “settle down” and be “ready to learn”, they NEED to play, move, be free. It is what humans are meant to do, and HOW they learn. We are harming our children, ourselves and our society with the prisons that we call schools. So much misery and waste when there are better ways.

  29. Excellent rant.

    Our schools aren’t designed to be child friendly, unfortunately, and are mostly incompatible with what we know about how kids learn and brains mature. It’s unfortunate in many ways for the students, and also for the teachers who are shoehorned into an all size fits few teaching situation.

    @Chachal, did we go to school together? Same for me – small town South Georgia, sixth grade science teacher, Ms Fitch… Not that it stuck with me or anything…

  30. Excellent rant. I agree with all your points.

    One of the directions from my state (in Australia) about schools is to *stagger* drop off and pick-up times, especially if there are only limited entrances/ exits to the school. Having people all try to arrive during a small window and calling it a preventative strategy is ridiculous. Make it at least 20-30 mins.

  31. chacha1 and Christy, I don’t know about now, but they certainly did still allow teachers to hit kids in at least some Georgia schools back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. My college roommate’s parents didn’t know that until after they moved to the countryside and enrolled her in the local school. So they pulled her out of that school and drove her and all her siblings all the way into town for school where they didn’t hit kids.

  32. I always got to school ten or fifteen minutes early. We’d all hang out in the school yard and catch up with our friends. This was NYC, so it wasn’t Midwest cold, but we did have winter and rain and stuff. When I went to high school, I had to take the subway, so lateness was a real possibility, but a delayed train or bad connection usually just ate into my preschool socializing time. (I know, from some classmates in the Bronx, that the school did monitor transit disruptions and cut people slack. On the other hand, you were expected to know that if the east side trains weren’t running, you should head over to the west side.)

    If you ever tried to get something done in a society that doesn’t take being on time seriously, you would realize the sheer importance of teaching kids to show up on time. For example, if you are a musician and you don’t show up in time for your set, good luck ever getting hired again. That’s more or less the rule. You can drink whisky, jam until 3AM and do cocaine the rest of the night, but be there with your instrument on time. June Foray, the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and maybe half of everyone else, was famous for always being a half an hour early. She was in demand into her late 90s. Other people could do voices just as well, but Foray would have read the script and would show up on time. Maybe software engineers can get away with missing deadlines, but some jobs expect one to be on time.

    I agree you don’t want to punish children when their parents screw up. If the kid is late while black, there’s a chance the police will be called and the kid will wind up with a felony rap sheet. On the other hand, showing up on time is probably more important than knowing how to read or write.

  33. For Wayne, who said “As for dropping kids off early, you put a jacket, hat, and gloves on ’em.”:
    I’m guessing you live in one of the warmer states. Having lived in Ohio (like Athena), I can tell you that making kids stand outside when it’s 10 or 20 degrees F is not going to help them get ready to learn. And in Wisconsin (where I currently live), we have mornings where it is so cold that it is literally not safe to be outside for more than 5 minutes at time. What do the children do on those days?

    For Heather, who said, “As a kid, I had to stand in 20-degree weather all the time to wait for the bus.”:
    How long did you actually wait outside? Did you go out and stand at the bus stop for 15 minutes on those mornings? Or did you watch from the door until you could see the bus down the street, then go out and wait for a couple of minutes?

    For Athena, thank you for pointing out something that I hadn’t noticed. We do punish kids for things that out of their control (like being late for school).

  34. Good grief. Every time I read something about how you run schools in USA I feel massive relief that I didn’t live there for that part of my life. It’s as if the intent were to ensure an undereducated population with psychoses.

  35. For all those saying, essentially, “Look, I had to do it when I was their age, kids today…”

    Honestly? That’s the line in the sand you want to draw? Tradition isn’t a good reason to keep doing _anything_ – each generation _should_ strive to make the next generation’s lives easier than their own. This jealousy that “kids today don’t have it as tough we did” is ridiculous – we should be celebrating that, not complaining about it.

  36. Tardy bells are *especially* fun if you have the type of teacher “I end the class, not the bell”. Having only 5 minutes to go from one end of the school to the next, with 3 of those spent in line waiting for a free toilet, another 3, because the teacher had another few sentences to say, and another 3 to run across the whole campus was getting ridiculous.

    Luckily, my school realied that and switched during a model where we’d spent most of the time in *our* classroom and the teachers had to switch.

    I also went to a school which only housed sophomores and up for my last few years (not getting into details), so the relationship between students and teachers was a lot better and any kind of tardyness rules were pretty lax. And guess what? It worked!

  37. I blame the “personal responsibility” doctrine which, in part, is all about stressing the notion that context doesn’t matter and excuses are what whiners do.

    Part of that is the idea that your personal problems are personal problems that will never matter more than the needs of those “above” you.

    We had “tardy lockouts” in middle school; some administrator would hop onto the PA system during passing period and bark “this. Is. A. Tardy. Lockout!”

    Security guards would “sweep” the school for stragglers who, when caught, were herded into the cafeteria or onto the PE field to get yelled at for the length of whatever class to which they were late.

    Rather than the English, Math or History lesson your teacher had planned, you got to hear how terrible and worthless you were, as well as how lateness would come to destroy all hope for a bright future.

    All I could think was, *female* problems made me two minutes late to class and my punishment is to spend the entire period being berated/hanging with other tardy friends?

    Sometimes they didn’t bother with the “correction” and just left you to sit.

    Stragglers were marked truant when they could just have been marked tardy and were required to get readmit slips before going to homeroom the next day.

    We also got to go home with short, passive aggressive and mildly threatening notes essentially blaming our parents for failing to instill punctuality in us.

    This needed to be signed and submitted in exchange for the required readmit slip.

    If you think new or disabled students were spared, I’ve got this beeeeeeeeautiful lil bridge…

    Got hung up throwing your guts up in the bathroom? To the “correction” you go!

    Got turned around trying to find one of the most obscure classrooms on campus? To the “correction” you go!

    Forgot part of the root you learned during orientational mobility? To the “correction” you go!

    We had one male “sweeper” who delighted in making his way through bathrooms like a killer in a movie.

    Even creepier was how some of these jerks treated “swept” kids like fresh catch.

    Why were a bunch of 11 to 13-year-olds part of some macho competition between employees?

    I picked up on how sick that was even at 11.

    I resented being treated like a prisoner all the way up through my senior year, hence the frequent trips to the Dean’s office for insubordination.

    I have and continue to side-eye Trunchbull copycats who either hate their jobs or delight in menacing smaller and weaker people with less power than themselves

    This goes for teachers, cafeteria workers and (insert title for hired disciplinarian here).

    There’s a special place in hell for faculty and staff who treat students like pests, cattle or criminals./Rant.

  38. When I was seven, in one of the bigger cities in Finland (by international standards, not that big – some 175000 people), we all walked or biked to school (the school didn’t allow under-tens to bike but nobody really enforced that). Or if you lived more than 3 km away, you’d get a free public transport ticket, and come by bus. Nobody got a lift from their parents. There was no “tardy bell” – the doors were closed until the bell that meant “come in” rang, and you were supposed to be in the classroom within a few minutes from the bell. If someone came obviously late – after the teaching had started -, they’d be asked why, and the explanation was generally accepted. We were supposed to spend the time between classes outside, but if it was colder than -25 Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit), that rule was relaxed, probably mostly because the teachers responsible for keeping order outside wanted to stay inside themselves. One day it was -35 C (-31 F), and I actually got called to come inside because the teachers were getting seriously cold and no other kid had wanted to go out :-P

  39. The problem with children waiting /congregating in cold weather for 20 minutes should be obvious in 2020.

    We can go back to battering The Coddling of the American Mind when covid isn’t tearing its way through the population.

  40. Reading some of the comments made me think back to my educational years. I learned at an early age (mostly from my father) to be obsessively punctual/early to anything and everything. Dealing with another parent who believes in leaving for something that is 20 minutes away minimum 10 minutes prior to the start of whatever it was they were heading for a few decades put in the position of being someone who lose patience if I was delayed even a couple of minutes.

    Regard schooling, I don’t believe we had a late bell in the strictest sense of the word. In high school. We did have that final warning that you needed to be in your homeroom by 7:44a, otherwise the door would be shut and/or locked, and it was up to the teacher’s discretion on whether or not to mark you tardy. The only exception to the tardy rule that we had was if you were running an errand for a teacher when the final bell went off.

    Funny thing about that late bell though, was if you were caught out in the hallway when that bell went off (had teachers who monitored the hallways), you weren’t allowed to move until the pledge was read and the morning announcements were started.

    Same went for going from class to class. You were often given roughly 5 to 7 minutes to go from one class to your locker, maybe a pit stop to the restroom, to another. And heaven forbid that you had once class at one end of the building (my high school was a bit sprawling) and one at the other, with your locker being somewhere on the 3rd floor, with your next class being on the 1st floor.

    Great way to learn how to severely speed walk in order to get to the class on time.

  41. YES this drives me nuts. My son has had so many “tardy” marks since he’s been in school and all of the reasons for them boil down to “Mom has ADHD and forgot we were getting ready to leave.” At least we’re lucky in that he doesn’t get penalized for being late; I believe the official policy is that if you rack up a certain number of late arrivals the school makes the adults have a meeting with them about why the heck you’re late so often. I really really don’t want to do that.

  42. My children’s school has a 15 minutes window for entering. Unless the parents pay for the babysitting service which is 8$ per day. Then they have a 1h45 window.
    My three kids walk to school together every morning. The first week, my two daughters got there in time, but my son kept getting late. I get a notification on the school’s web portal when it happens. The kids aren’t being blamed for this and they don’t really care. The parents are getting the blame. I find this fair.
    Now I walk to school with my kids and they’re never late. I like it, it makes me get out of the house since I work from home. And I can make sure my eldest doesn’t “get lost” getting to school.

  43. When I was in 7th grade, 12 years old, we spent the night in the hospital with my grampa whose liver was failing. I completely forgot to get my mom to sign my math test as proof that I had shown her my grade, a 100/A+ something along those lines. The next day my mom got me to school, but I didn’t have the signed test, and so my math teacher made me sit in quiet lunch detention. I explained where we were/what happened that led to me forgetting, and she said, “I don’t care. I don’t need your excuses.” I’m now 31 and still remember her harsh response and the humiliation I felt having to sit in this crowded lunch room at quiet detention for something as ridiculous as that.

    I had constant issues with that teacher the entire year, from her making me put my hands down so she could check my shorts length in the hallway as we lined up for lunch to her telling me to stop taking notes and pay attention to what she was doing on the board, but the lunch detention sticks out the most. When my mom brought all of this up with the principal, she told my mom that it was just “the way she is” and they weren’t going to bring it up with her since she had been teaching at the school for a long time.

  44. @Amber:

    That story pisses me off. This “teacher” was most likely a miserable person who needed to choose another line of work.

    What, exactly, were you supposed to learn from being punished for dealing with a family emergency?

    I strongly suspect that the context in which you “failed” didn’t matter as much as that teacher’s need to be obeyed.

    Your “lesson” was less about your supposed irresponsibility than about your teacher’s ego.

    She told you to do something. You didn’t do it, so you were, by God, going to learn not to defy her.

    This probably explains the “eyes on me!” power trip with the note taking.

    Worse still, you were likely a victim of the “all kids are inherently lazy and career liars” generalization, one less common among good teachers than among desk-warming prison guards who have no business working anywhere near anyone’s kids.

    Conflating reasons with excuses, dismissing uncontrollable circumstances and teaching students that unforeseen events don’t matter should all be seriously frowned upon in education.

    There are other ways to teach responsibility than treating kids like Hollywood interns or PAs to the stars.

    Part of being an effective educator is the ability to balance flexibility with age and grade appropriate behavior standards.

    Ask the student for verification.

    Outline in your syllabus clear and specific procedures for dealing with assignment submittal under extenuating circumstances.

    Offer in that same syllabus a clear and *flexible* set of criteria for extenuating circumstances.

    If you don’t believe the varification or get the same “excuse” more than once, take a couple points off part of their final grade rather than dropping a detention size hammer on their heads.

    And there’s always the radical option of giving a good student the benefit of the doubt just once.

    Save detension for infractions that impact other students, like class disruptions or attacks (verbal or physical) on classmates.

    Save that option for behaviors that are unsafe, like desk surfing or marker huffing.

    My point is that the hammer shouldn’t be the go-to strategy in every case.

    I also wonder why you were required to get a signature on a test you aced.

    If the rationale for collecting parental signatures is accountability for academic performance, why lay that requirement on successful students?

    That she did this with impunity (I’m betting you weren’t the first or last) is why I’m so glad not to have anymore to do with the school system.

  45. One of the things (there were / are several) that always bugged me from day 1 of my kids going to school was the amount of time between classes. When I was in school, more decades ago than I care to think about, the standard in elementary thru high school was 6 class periods in a day with plenty of time between classes to gather your stuff and leave class, go to your locker and change books, and then go to your next class. Sure, every now and then there might be a problem like adjacent classes on opposite ends of a big campus, but generally you had plenty of time.

    Public schools these days, or at least all the ones my kids have attended, have crammed an extra class period into about the same amount of overall time, 7 classes instead of 6. They way they have done this is to shorten each class and to decrease the time between classes. The interval between classes is too short to go to a locker in between classes and tardiness means a locked classroom door and a trip to the office.

    The result is that throughout my kids schooling SOP was that all kids typically carried all of their books with them all the time, all day long. There are still lockers in the schools and they still get issued one, but no one uses them. It is a stupid, uselessly cruel situation that pisses me off. Kids lugging around back packs stuffed to bursting and heavier compared to their body weight than a US Army infantryman’s load out.

  46. I can answer why they don’t let the kids in at 8. Because having a schoolfull of kids running around is risky. Kids get hurt, or vandalize something. Teachers need the last 30 minutes before classes start to get everything sorted for the day. Class materials don’t arrive on their own. Copying things takes time, and the copier has to be shared. So having the teachers monitor the halls isn’t the solution. I was the daughter of a middle school teacher, and during my middle school years I was in her classroom helping her get ready for the day every morning. I don’t know what the solution is, but heaping more work on the teachers isn’t the answer. I teach in higher education, and I know I need my prep time before class. Online classes are even harder to teach than face to face classes. We are going to lose even more highly qualified teachers if we keep demanding they do more and more. Already in my state, we had an additional 20% retiring this year due to the demands of lockdown and fear for their health. Telling them to start their day 30 minutes earlier so they can supervise the kids is going to lose us even more.

  47. Like many here, I am extremely bitter about school rules and discipline DECADES after it happened to me. Athena, congratulations on picking a very relatable topic to rant about!!

    The person from Finland has me beat on low temperatures, but I’ll tell my “uphill both ways” story anyway — because it pisses me off to read all the people saying “c’mon, kids can wait outside.” In Minnesota, we lived 0.95 miles from the school, so we couldn’t ride the school bus as kids a block farther away could. My parents would drive us if the temp was below -10F. Each year, we got a ride numerous times, which means we walked a lot of times when it was -9F! Even with nearly-arctic outwear we got close to frost bit.

    I would have hoped more people commenting here had more ability to imagine other people’s circumstances, but we can be such solipsists. At least some commenters can imagine alcoholic parents, etc.

  48. WRT teachers keeping students in class past the “end bell.” Yup. I still feel gleeful about my vengeance when I got to college (where we had 10 minutes between classes to get to whole ‘nother building, sometimes across campus).

    I sat in the first class of an elective and found the prof to be a blowhard with a-hole political opinions. When the end-time arrived and he continued bloviating, I got up and left. It pleased me that I was smack in the middle of a full lecture hall, so I had to pass more than a dozen seated people to get out, and I repeated “excuse me excuse me” at speaking volume. Then I went and dropped the class, of course.

  49. “We are going to lose even more highly qualified teachers if we keep demanding they do more and more.”

    Agreed, particularly if we continue to pay them less and less.

  50. I had a few good teachers, but in general I agree with Matt Groening that “school is a prison where kids are sent for the crime of being children.”

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