A Note from the Principal: April 2017

Dear Families,

I usually reserve my introduction to the newsletter for a reflection on events at Graham and Parks or on how events beyond our school affect our students and families… this will not be one of those reflections. Instead I’d like to address a more concrete and less philosophical topic: tardiness, or being late to school. But first, if your child rides the bus, they arrive on time, so you can skip the rest of my introduction if you choose.

Now, for the rest of you: I know that getting to school on time is difficult. I have two young children, and getting them out the front door requires tactical maneuvers usefully reserved for military operations. And even with precision planning and execution, at least one child is missing a sock or has their pants on backwards. And with the snow and rain and wacky Cambridge traffic, getting from Point A to Point B in our city is like navigating the Bermuda Triangle. And some days are just hard because life is hard, and some lives are harder than others. All of this is true and fills me with great empathy for families who struggle to arrive before the second bell. And yet… and yet… I have faith in your children and know that with a little planning and a little prodding, they can arrive on time. And here’s why that’s important:

Children feel better and do better when they have some time to settle in before the day begins. They need time to catch up with their friends and teachers, run around a little, maybe grab some breakfast, put away their things, and get a sense of the day ahead. Morning meetings often begin at 8:25; walking into the classroom afterwards makes for an abrupt transition. It’s like running into a meeting five minutes late. It’s hard to recover. But that’s also true for the entire class. When a student arrives late to class, both students and teachers must divert their attention from instruction to welcome and settle the latecomer. Pausing to settle a late student is an essential part of a welcoming classroom community, but it takes a toll when multiple students are late every day. Being late to school is hard for individual students; but the whole class also feels the impact.

Of course, you’re going to be late sometimes. Stuff happens; there are good reasons to arrive after the second bell. There’s no need to feel bad about it. But when tardiness, by even a few minutes, becomes a habit, it’s time to form new habits. And we’re here to help! Your child’s teacher is an expert on moving students from one place to another quickly. Ask them for advice. Lauren Morse, our family liaison, is available to work with families to make morning arrival plans. And if your child doesn’t move with your desired sense of urgency, I’d be happy to have a little chat with them, perhaps after you’ve tried alternative approaches. There’s also the reality that the state requires us to track attendance and tardiness and to inform families when there’s a problem. At Graham and Parks, we begin with a phone call offering support and then follow up with a formal letter from the Cambridge Public Schools.

But before we send that letter, remember that spring is a perfect time to turn over a new leaf and set new goals. So here’s an ambitious one: all students are in class by 8:20, or better yet 8:15. And I promise, no judgment if your child arrives at school missing a sock once in a while; we’ve all been there.