There are two great arguments about the importance of punctuality in this world. Both are compelling in their own way and both can be used to legitimize the timeliness or lateness of one’s arrival. Let’s take a look at those two arguments and see how one of them might be better employed in an educational setting.
Karen Joy Fowler once said that “Arriving late was a way of saying that your own time was more valuable than the time of the person who waited for you.” This philosophy is based on your respect of others. You agreed to be at a particular location at an exact time so be there. You have no idea what plans the person waiting for you has following the meeting. Showing up late can be insulting because you show you don’t care about their schedule. By being on time, you share respect with the people around you, building your relationships.
On the other end of the stick, Oscar Wilde was quoted saying, “I am always late on principle, my principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.” Time is merely a man made measurement of what’s important. A needed conversation with a colleague or a half hour spent helping a friend is far more valuable than being on time. Time is meant to be spent with people and sometimes you need a little extra time to do right by someone else. Punctuality oftentimes removes opportunities to have that ground breaking conversation with a colleague or provide the much-needed service to a friend. In the name of being on time, we lose our humanity.
In the case of a classroom situation, in a class of twenty people or so, the instructor certainly isn’t going to be waiting to start the lecture because a student is late. In fact, sometimes they’ll just dock points for tardiness or absence. Your presence doesn’t hurt them in any way because they’re not waiting for you. Punctuality isn’t always socially unacceptable in these cases unless your instructor or classmates are bothered with you coming in late. If you do come in late, sit in the back and don’t draw attention to yourself.
Now that can all change if you’re expected for a special project. The occasional assignment might pop up that requires your punctual appearance to contribute. Group projects are a great example. If you leave group members waiting on you, there can be serious trouble. Not only are you tardy, but your group members are now late because of you. Lack of punctuality here can offend other people.
The importance of punctuality comes down to the expectations of those you’re meeting with. If you know that you’ll put them behind then try to ere on the side of punctuality. If you know that no one is waiting or will be offended by your tardiness then ere on the side of what needs to be taken care of. Just remember that when you’re late, you (1) potentially lose points, and (2) could be missing out on some vital information that you paid to learn.