Friday, November 03, 2006

Walmart cracks down on tardiness

Oh my gawd! I actually approve of something Walmart it doing. It was awfully cold this morning, but I didn't realize that hell had frozen over.

I live in a rural area where Walmart is our only real option for purchasing basic necessities. Walmart has driven out of business a dozen or more small local enterprises, and if they build a supercenter in the county, the grocery stores may fold too. The majority of my students work for Walmart at some time or another, and so I hear quite frequently about Walmart's abuses of employees. But for once, I'm on Walmart's side.

According to Good Morning America, this morning. Walmart has decided that being at least 10 minutes late three times will earn workers a demerit point. Accumulating a certain number of demerits (the number was not specified in the story) would result in being fired. This does not seem to me to be a draconian measure.

As a college professor at a small community college in a poor rural community, I am painfully aware that young people today care little about promptness. The kinds of sanctions that would have mortified me (small losses of points or earnings or simple disapproval from teachers and bosses), are like water off a duck's back to todays students and workers.

Tuesday this week provides a typical example. My social problems class is suppose to begin at 2:30 PM. There were originally 12 people enrolled in the class, five of whom have vanished for good, at some point in the past two months, leaving 7 students who appear sporadically for classes. This class was the last session before an exam, and was to cover material on welfare reform in which several students had expressed a genuine interest. At 2:30 one student was present. Together she and I waited for 10 mintues, conversing informally about the course and the material, hoping that some one else would appear. Finally, unwilling to lecture to one person, and unable to break out into the planned small groups, I let the sole attendee leave. As I began to gather my materials together, another student suddenly appeared -- 12 minutes after the start time. I sat down with her for about 10 minutes, reviewed the same material and handouts I had given the first student and sent her on her way. I was just about to leave, when, now 25 minutes after the start time, two more students appeared. These two made it clear that they had been standing else where on campus, smoking and visiting, and had simply "lost track of time" (something that these two do almost every class session). So being the good teacher that I am, I pulled out my materials, and gave another 10 minute overview and provided handouts to these tardy folk, then let them go.

Had all 4 students arrived at the same time, we could have had a full class, they would have received a lot more information, and would have interacted with each other to discuss in detail the assigned readings for the day. They will still be responsible for that material on the test, without benefit of review.

This was not atypical. It was in fact the fifth class session (from two different courses) that I had found it necessary to cancel, because during the first 10 minutes of the class session only 1 or 2 students were actually present. In larger classes, when half the students are not on time (a common occurance) there are enough students available to begin the class, but we must suffer through all the disruptions of having 10 or more people wander in over a twenty minute time period. These late comers are reminded repeatedly that they are not getting any attendance points. They do more poorly on exams because they miss crucial information, and yet, they continue to arrive late, day after day.

I know how disruptive this behavior is in the classroom, and can only imagine what it must be like to try to run a buinesses when employees consistently wander in late, or leave early. So Walmart, crack down on those later comers, and more power to you!

Blogs and dogs

I see that my last blog posting was May 18, 2006. The day after that, on May 19th, we (my husband and I) adopted a dog -- and for the next six months it seems like all life revolved around said dog. Rosie, was a stray wandering around the neighborhood, but spending most of her time hanging out on our front porch. She was 9 months old at the time, and 60 lbs. of lab/shepard/bloodhound/etc. mix. She was sweet but wild. After 6 months, obedience training at PetSmart (good people, good program), and lots of watching "Dog Whisperer" we find that we can actually enjoy her, and have some type of life at the same time. But blogging was definitely one of the things that got lost. So here I go again. Nice thing about life -- you get lots of chances to start again.