How to do Late Right

I had more than a few late second-graders today, Friday, April 25.

You see, it’s Class Picture Day. Due to the fact that seven students aren’t yet here, I can’t help but imagine the households of my students on the morning of Class Picture Day. Kids and parents scrambling, trying to find the best outfit. The best outfit–that one clothing item or one ensemble that everyone agreed was the cutest thing ever for that particular school year. Should be on a hanger or folded and in a drawer, right? If it’s the best clothing item?

Where did you wear it last? Has it been washed? Has anyone seen it?

Oh, never mind. Just find something that’s clean. Something not wrinkly.

Something without words on it. Our teacher said try not to wear a shirt with words on it.

Hurry, hurry, hurry and eat, we have to do your hair today. What should we do? Curl it? Curl it like you had in Aunt Jane’s wedding? Spike it? You want a mohawk? Okay! Hurry! Shoot, this is going to take a while. What time are your pictures? What? You don’t know? She didn’t tell you? Okay, never mind, just hurry.

What about my picture envelope?

What picture envelope?

The envelope. She said we have to bring the envelope and money if we want to order any. We don’t have to. Order any. But we’re going to, aren’t we? Can we? Can we?

Oh yeah, the envelope. Here it is. What? No cash in the envelope? Shoot. Where’s the checkbook? What? We’re out of checks?

What time are the pictures? I can’t believe she didn’t tell you. Did she at least say if they’re in the morning or the afternoon?

And so my little darlings enter, most of them on time, many of them oblivious to the fact that it’s Class Picture Day, looking like they do every other day (i.e., slightly disheveled but cute and oh so themselves).

I look around the room, which seems much less crowded than usual. Count. What? Eight kids absent on Class Picture Day? How can that be? What kind of class picture will we have with one-third of our class missing?

Well, start the day. Get going.

Knock. Oh, here comes someone. A rambunctious student rushes to answer the door and let her in.

It’s Julie. Nice ringlets. Fancy dress. I don’t ask why she’s late.

Okay, start the day. Get going.

Knock. It’s Robert. Oh, and Chance, too. The standard tardies. I doubt they know it’s picture day. No excuses, no reasons, just their standard arrival time, with typical bedheads in place.

Okay, start the day. Let’s get going.

Just kidding. Another figure moving outside the door. It’s Jazmyn. I hardly recognize her. Her hair, usually up in a pony tail, is let loose and flowing down to her waist. Wow. Beautiful.

A couple more trickle in, disrupting our first ten minutes of class. I’m glad to see them arriving though. For the most part, clean, well-dressed, well-groomed, envelopes flapping in hand.

But I’m having trouble starting the school day. The first 15 minutes are typically spent on opening–choosing a special helper for the day; doing calendar; reviewing vocabulary; practicing the spelling words; rehearsing math facts. We’re not going to get everything in today. With each knock, a smile for the late arrival but also some palpable frustration. I exchange “unbelieveable!” glances with the students who were here on time, just to connect with them, to say, “Can you believe these kids? Showing up late? How irresponsible!”

They think I am truly frustrated. Which I am. In a way. But not surprised. It’s not like it’s my first Class Picture Day, that’s for sure.

And then there is one last knock on the door. And in walks David. David, who just yesterday had a whole head of thick blonde hair, and who today has a fresh buzz cut. Super fresh. Like, this morning fresh. He’s flapping a money order in the air and cradling a bouquet of flowers.

“Sorry I’m late,” he mumbles. “We had to stop and get you flowers.”

“Kids!” I pause, making sure I have everyone’s undivided attention. “Now, if you’re going to be late, this is the way to do it. Bring your teacher flowers!”