Calling all teachers

Inconsistent class start times are harmful to students


Nicole Macgaffey

Some students have found themselves texting their friends to find out whether class has started or not. They worry if they are missing out on class instruction.

Distance learning has presented many challenges for Bonita Vista High (BVH) teachers working from home. Whether it be technology issues or dealing with unexpected urgent matters, these challenges affect the time teachers start their class which can cause stress for students who already have their own struggles learning from home. Teachers should have consistent start times during distance learning and provide students with organized updates on class schedules. 

Several teachers have been inconsistent about their class start times. In some cases, teachers will  start class five minutes early one day and then the following day start class 10 minutes later than the scheduled start time. In cases like juniors Anna Maya and Isabella Garcia, one of their teachers constantly switches between synchronous and asynchronous start times. 

For some students it takes a lot of motivation to come to class on time and inconsistent start times can cause those students to lose motivation altogether, especially in a time where less students are engaged in school. Maya mentions how it is tiring and frustrating when teachers do not start class on time and finds herself thinking “when is this class going to be done” when class does start.

“It’s very unexpected because I’m mentally prepared to start the class at one p.m. and then I realize I have to log back [on] in 45 minutes [which is] pretty annoying,” Maya said. 

Students like Maya fear missing important class instruction from not being present since inconsistent start times makes it harder for students to come to class on time. In addition, students like Garcia find themselves texting their friends if the class has opened up for them after a first few minutes of the expected time with panic wondering if they are late or not. Even though it may not seem like a big deal to teachers, this confusion causes students a lot of distress than can be avoided through communicating a consistent start time to their students.

Furthermore, inconsistent start times from teachers are damaging to students’ mental health, as it causes stress to students who are already facing challenges and hardships brought by the pandemic. Students experience an increased amount of anxiety as well from not knowing when class will start. 

“I kept trying to go in [the class call at the expected time] but [Google Meets] wouldn’t let me in and then I feel nervous and [start] panicking,” freshman Christina Gutierrez said. “It was nerve racking.” 

Students’ confusion about the start time stems from a lack of communication from teachers. Garcia, Gutierrez, and Maya have teachers that use Google Classroom and Jupiter Grades to communicate with students if they will be late or if class is canceled. However, some students have poor Internet connection so they are unable to get those messages their teachers are sending, resulting in them not attending or being late for class. 

Teachers can tell their students the class period prior if they will be late or will cancel class, like some of Gutierrez’s teachers which she found to be an effective way of communication. Ultimately though, canceling class or being late the day-of on a regular basis is harmful to students with poor Internet connection since it is not an easy issue to fix. 

A consistent start time will not only reduce the amount of stress students face, but could improve attendance as well. Maya finds that these methods of communication are unreliable for many students, especially those who do not have the Google Classroom or Jupiter Grades app on their phones and don’t immediately receive notifications. 

Students already have a lot to worry about at home due to the pandemic, when their class will start should not be one of those worries. Students need consistency in their education during a time where there is so much uncertainty. ”

— Nicole Macgaffey

Teachers need to keep a consistent start time because it is important for students to have a schedule and a routine growing up and to learn the environment they are currently in. Maya points out that for teenagers the lack of a routine during the pandemic is affecting them in ways they are not sure how to deal with or identify. 

“I do believe that high school in general is that type of environment where you learn your habits and routines that you will use for the rest of your life,” Maya said. “In other words, if we don’t establish a routine and schedule now, when will we acknowledge this importance in the future?”  

The lack of routine has thrown off the balance of many students as they cannot depend on an exact schedule. Gutierrez believes routines are important because of the negative effects not having one has on students like herself, who are autistic. 

“[Maintaining a routine] is very important because I usually freak out if [teachers] don’t [have a consistent start time] because I am autistic and I need my routines,” Gutierrez said. 

Teachers need to implement techniques to keep a consistent start time. As some people use alarms to wake up at a certain time in order to be punctual, Head of the Math Department and International Baccalaureate (IB) Math teacher Christina Ada uses alarms set on her phone to start class on time. She has an alarm set for five minutes before each class as a “warning bell” so she can wrap up whatever she is currently doing. Ada often struggles with losing track of time with the task she was doing, whether it was grading assignments or setting up lessons in between classes, which is the reason why she sets alarms. It is crucial for teachers to find ways to maintain a consistent start time for their students to help them succeed. 

Teachers should be considerate of student situations considering they cause an inconvenience to the student for not being available. Some students have at-home responsibilities such as taking care of younger siblings or household work. This is an important viewpoint that many teachers need to adopt in order to ensure the success and well being of their students. 

“I feel everybody is struggling right now to manage [their time] and when you consistently aren’t showing up at the same time, students can’t plan for [the change in time], parents can’t plan for [the change in time]. What if students are meant to be helping their little brothers and sisters and you decide that you need to change the class time? I just think it makes it harder on everybody,” Ada said. 

It is understandable that teachers also face issues that cause them to run late such as technology issues, or in Ada’s case, morning meetings or previous class tutoring sessions that run long. As it is important to give a bit of grace in distance learning, inconsistent start times are a prominent and reoccurring issue that needs to be resolved to ensure some structure for students and teachers alike. 

Teachers maintaining a consistent start time and establishing an effective way of communication will benefit students who are struggling navigating distance learning and set them up for a path of success. Students already have a lot to worry about at home due to the pandemic, when their class will start should not be one of those worries. Students need consistency in their education during a time where there is so much uncertainty.