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Why It's Okay to Be Late Sometimes

Posted by Chuck Evans on Aug 20, 2019 9:39:00 AM

why it's okay to be late sometimes

According to the Internet test prep site Magoosh:

“Eighty-six percent of high school students said they procrastinate on assignments. In college, that number goes up slightly to 88 percent. College males are the worst procrastinators – a whopping 92 percent of them said they procrastinate on school assignments!”

I procrastinate.

What? You do too?

Normally, my procrastination is relatively consequence free. My car registration sticker might go overdue for a week or the dry cleaning doesn’t get picked up for a few days. And, like most people, there are things about which I don’t procrastinate: in 13 years of working on the road and nearly a million miles of air travel, I have never missed a flight.

In the world of K-12 school, we tend to obsess over punctuality. Being on time for school, for class, for practice, for games. Submitting homework and projects on time.

And for good reason. Punctuality really is a sort of virtue, a form of consideration. Timeliness shows respect for other people’s time and priorities, it keeps the machinery moving, and it makes us more productive overall. All good things.

But no one is perfect, and sometimes we allow ourselves the luxury of lateness, especially if the consequences will be borne primarily by us and are relatively slight.

And, sometimes, lateness is not the result of procrastination but of prioritization. If I have four deadlines on Friday, and I realize on Wednesday that I will only meet three, one will have to move to Monday. I can judge myself for being indolent or careless, which could be a self-indulgent vice, or I can rest in the confidence of my competence and intentions.

Years ago, I heard a wise teacher colleague tell a group of students that “doing your best” is not perfection. “Doing your best,” she said, “is doing all you can given the resources, capabilities, and time available to you.” The students who took her advice to heart learned to become more balanced, less critical of themselves, and content with what they could do within the context of their busy lives.

it is okay to be late sometimes

This is a long lead up to the new late-work policies in the Logic and Rhetoric Schools. While timeliness is a noble pursuit, perfect punctuality is not possible for anyone. We teach our students to manage their time and their priorities when we allow for occasional tardiness without severe consequences or snide judgment. We are hoping, too, that students (and their parents) feel a bit more free to calculate and prioritize without fear of failure.

All to say, timeliness is a virtue, but tardiness is not always a vice.

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Topics: Education