I was organizing some files on an old hard drive tonight when I found an article I wrote for my high school's paper about the arbitrariness of the tardy policy.
Although the bitchiness and the grammar make me cringe, reading it brought back memories of how idiotic certain high school rules really were. Plus I'm proud that I was rallying against The Man.
So now I present to you--completely unedited--my rant as it appeared in the February 28th, 2002 Conard High School Pow Wow. I have no idea why they let this run.
Oh, and more than a decade later, I'm still chronically late.
Me? Tardiness Issues? I Think Conard Has the Issues
I recently read a newspaper article claiming that being late has become a side effect of the advancement of American society and, therefore, the increasing activity of its citizens. People are so busy that punctuality has become a trivial afterthought to our demanding schedules. This may or may not be true. All I know is that I swear tardiness is in my blood.
I am writing, as I sit here in an office detention for being late to first period a total of three times (or a total of approximately .029 seconds, because a certain anonymous first-period Spanish teacher of mine defines being on time as “having both feet past the threshold exactly when the bell rings regardless of how stupid this is”) to state my case for why tardiness, especially to first period, should not be seen by the administration as something we can help. In fact, it seems to me that every rule and regulation they have set just consumes more time.
First of all, being late to first period is nothing like being late to second: to get to the former means covering miles of potentially hazardous roadways at eighty miles an hour to avoid getting an office detention while eating yogurt with one hand, because god forbid we don’t have our protein before the CAPT test, dodging buses and traffic jams and criminal-looking Sedgwick kids [editor's note: Sedgwick was the town middle school], whereas being late to the latter just means that you didn’t saunter your way down three feet of hallway fast enough.
Then, when we get to school, the administration has kindly allotted us students only the finest of parking spaces in the farthest corner of the lot. I have a question for you, teachers: if you want us to be on time so badly, why make us park in the desert? Why don’t you make the trek once? After we have parked and gathered the power bars and other survival items necessary to make the trip across the lot from our choice spaces, we have to cross the dangerous Apparently Blind Mothers Who Are In A Tremendous Rush To Get To Work driveway right in front of the school. At most intersections, such as those in Times Square, one gets the feeling that pedestrians actually do take precedence. Not here. You have to wait until one of these West Hartford mothers reaches for her latte or answers her cell to dart across.
Finally, those of us who are lucky enough to have their first period class on the third floor sprint up the three flights of stairs, avoiding the herds of sloth-like kids moving at the average velocity of a dust mite who stretch conveniently across the entire hallway (you wait till I get my cattle prodder).
Finally, chests heaving, we sprint through the door just as the bell rings and our teachers, who apparently have none of the empathy characteristic of human beings, look at with a face similar to the one someone makes upon stepping in dog crap and bubble in their little tardy circles.
The thing that kills me, though, is that while this is going on, the announcements are being read. I mean no disrespect to the announcements, but since it doesn’t appear that they are part of my Spanish 5 honors curriculum, why the hell am I penalized for missing them? I doubt there’s going to be an “announcements” section on the final. And if hearing them was that important, I do just that as I’m jogging to class every morning. I’d like to hear the explanation for my losing credit in a class because I didn’t hear what the soup of the day was.
Another puzzling aspect of the current tardy policy is that “tardy” encompasses being .001 seconds late to fifteen minutes. Hypothetically, I could hear the bell just as I step into class and think, “well, I have another 14.999 minutes, so I might as well go get some food, take a nap, etc because I am already marked down for this entity of time.” The administration likes to think they’re logical. I wonder, is it logical to have a fifteen-minute absence have the same consequences as a two-second one? I think it would make a whole hell of a lot more sense to punish someone based on how late they are, rather than how many times.
The last fault of the tardy system is that a mere twelve unexcused tardies is equal to a loss of credit in the class. This is a very real threat to someone like me, who had a total of twenty-two tardies (fourteen unexcused, eight excused ☺) last semester. What this means is although I have a solid A in my class, though probably not anymore after my teacher reads this, the administration could say that my walking in two seconds after the bell every day would cancel out this grade. I might as well have not even been there. Obviously, a rational person would look at my grade and deduce that my two seconds is not having an ill effect on it, but when Conard looks at the same situation, they would say, “It is a good lesson in punctuality, regardless of the overwhelmingly evident fact that she has mastered the material of the class.”
They may claim that these trivial rules and calls down to the attendance office are “preparing us for college,” much like teachers in Sedgwick [Middle School] forbade backpacks and gum “to avoid lawsuits and prepare us for Conard” although everyone in this school legally has both, but in college, you don’t even have to go to your classes. It is up to the student to decide if those two seconds will hurt him or her (answer: no). In college, they would never waste donated funds on a woman who bitterly interrogates the validity of your tardiness (“Family problem? What sort of family problem?”) when they could purchase a set of valedictorians for their freshman class.
I may have been blessed with the world’s worst sense of time, but since society is also heading in my direction, I say Conard make some revisions before we take you down with us. Sarcasm aside, I propose a compromise. Instead of the one, general tardy bubble, sheets would have three: the first for five minutes late and under, the second for 5-10 minutes, and the third for 10-15 minutes late. All a teacher would have to do differently is glance at the clock when the student arrives. The office detention penalty would naturally increase in harshness with the more severe tardy.
We students are under so much pressure with AP classes and music and sports as it is that something as inconsequential as being a few seconds tardy shouldn’t bog us down with office and Saturday detentions; at least this would give us more of a needed break.