Issue #1: Old Fashioned and On Time

Why are my colleagues perpetually late?

First of all, I want to thank everyone for subscribing. Welcome to the very first issue of Ask a Teacher. (Are newsletters italicized? Probably not. But it gives me more gravitas, does it not?) I noticed most email addresses came from friends and family. I truly appreciate the support as I start up this new project. Whatever this is. Above all, thank you, everyone, for not laughing in my face when I said I wanted to put myself in the position of advice giver.

So, here we go, let’s take ‘er out for a spin.

Dear Kristin,

As I have gotten older I have noticed that fewer and fewer of my teaching colleagues think it’s important to arrive to work early. They’re 10-15 minutes late every day. Heck, most of our administrators don’t arrive until after students have entered the building. So I’m wondering, am I just being old-fashioned thinking folks should arrive to work on time?

– 50 Cent (my hourly teaching salary)

Dear 50 Cent (my hourly teaching salary),

Your letter evoked visions of a crabby Jodie Foster, who recently made the news for her denigration of Gen Z (those born between 1997 - 2012). Her complaints were as follows:

  • “Really annoying, especially in the workplace.”

  • Only show up when they want, will not follow a schedule.

  • Grammatically incorrect and do not care.

I do not know if it’s Gen Z you speak of, specifically, but probably not if you are also talking admin. Although, sometimes it’s fun to pin a major, system-wide failure on one generation, isn’t it? Baby boomers, I am looking at you for destroying the middle class AND our economy.

One Gen Zer, never on time and okay with it, asked about time blindness in a job interview. Time blindness? Yes, a blindness in regards to time. It’s a thing and Gen Z wants accommodations! (Brace yourself. It’s a TikTok video. Because… of course it is.)


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Jodie Foster’s eyes would roll so hard, they would trigger an internal avalanche, resulting in a her brain caving right in. If you need to feel validated for also rolling your eyes, read the comments on that video. Even some fellow Gen Zers are not tolerating this level of preciousness. 

However, a Fox Business article seriously tackled the concept of time blindness, explaining that it could be tied to neuro-diversity and disability. They even gave examples on how to accommodate (which legally, a company would have to do, if found to be a manifestation of a disability):

– Check-ins with supervisors to manage timelines on large projects.

– Set timers 10 minutes in advance of meetings.

– Create a calendar to track time/stay on task.

50 Cent, I doubt all your coworkers have a disability. Still, might you take charge by showing them how to set timers on their phones? So they know it’s time to get in their cars and drive to work?

As fun as it is to rake Gen Z over the coals, what you are seeing in your school might be a symptom of younger people entering the workforce, looking around and realizing it sucks. Being on time takes discipline. Why do it if you don’t have to? And why do it if your bosses also don’t bother to be on time?

Not to get philosophical, but if you are 26 years old, late to work every day, AND your administrators are also late, does a note still get made in your HR file? (Answer:  It does not, but your old fashioned, timely co-workers are noticing.)

There’s also this other thing. It can be a touchy subject, but I just have to. Have you ever considered it could be a cultural difference? Hear me out. I happen to know you are white, despite the nod to 50 Cent the rapper, in your title. I received a whopping two questions since I opened up this newsletter a few days ago, so it’s pretty easy to tell via email addresses who asked me what. 

Sorry I didn’t offer a trigger warning on this image. This is what AI comes up with when you ask for a white person smiling, holding a clock.

What I am struggling to ask you is, might you be hung up on your whiteness in regards to how it serves you in the workplace? If you ask the Stanford Social Innovation Review, it serves you well and it serves you often. And you don’t even notice it, because it’s embedded in how we do business. Hold onto your butts:

Perhaps, 50, your ideas around timeliness at work are white people values that you have inherited from white predecessors? And you don’t even notice it, because that’s just the way it’s always been. It’s the standard.

I have to admit, I heard of this concept a few years ago, and I scoffed so hard, I almost spit out my gum. I love to be on time. It soothes my type A, first born daughter soul to be on time, if not early. I thought, okay, so what, nothing needs to run on time because… ? Other cultures don’t care about being on time? Not quite, but it's important to understand how and why cultural norms are formed and passed down through generations:

“… in a world driven by capitalism, professionalism is based on a monochronic relationship to timeliness and work style. It centers productivity over people, values time commitments, accomplishes tasks in a linear fashion, and often favors individuals who are white and Western. In contrast, polychronic cultures, while still able to get tasks completed, prioritize socialization and familial connections over economic labor. Within black and immigrant communities, there is often a deep ancestral connection to polychronic cultural orientation. Some people of color push against this by adopting a monochronic orientation, but many hold on to their polychronic work style. As a result, they may lose their jobs more often in a culture biased against their norms.”

I would like to pause here to thank Aysa Gray at the Stanford Social Innovation Review for eloquently explaining the concept of black people time, so I don't have to.

My final assessment is that being punctual to work can be old guard, especially if we are looking through the lens of younger people, from polychronic cultures. I suspect there will be a time HR departments will be coached on how to accommodate for time blindness. I know I was making fun earlier, but it can be a symptom of ADHD. At some point, someone, somewhere will make a Google Slides presentation on how help employees set timers to get to work on time.

In the meantime, 50 Cent, I think you can evolve and adapt. I suggest trying one of or both of the following:

  1. Continue to be on time but find a way to let go of caring about how other people keep time. As Aysa Gray suggested, polychronic cultures care more about connection while still getting the work done. You mentioned no one is early and that they are 10-15 minutes late. It sounds like your complaint is about no one honoring the start of contract time, but that they are there to start their classes. If that’s the case, focus on the fact the work is getting done. Even Jodie Foster found a way to praise Gen Z in her interview, after taking them down (great at self-expression). Your late co-workers, can you focus on their positive qualities instead?

  2. Start showing up late yourself, see what the fuss is all about. You can sleep in. Or you can sit on the side of your bed and stare into the abyss. Consider it self-care. I know administration loves to preach self-care. At your next staff meeting when they are talking about taking up yoga, getting more sleep, and/or eating healthier, you can raise your hand and talk about the benefits of staring into the abyss, on the edge of your bed, in the dark.

And that’s a wrap on the first newsletter. Thank you for the question!


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