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Ken Alford on Tardiness

Ken Alford

Ken Alford

This information was originally published at and sent out as part of Ken Alford’s email list to Seminary teachers.   It’s helpful for teachers who may be struggling with tardiness in the classroom:

Punctuality always seems to be a challenge in the church, but it is especially so when you add teenagers and early mornings to the equation.

I feel punctuality is an important trait to possess, and it’s a personal goal of mine each year to help each of my students understand the importance of becoming a punctual person (and, hopefully, doing so).

I like to provide multiple incentives and activities to encourage punctuality.

Here are some of the ways that I encourage punctuality:

  • This is an area where it is extremely important to lead by example. It’s hard for students to see the need to be on time, if their Seminary teacher is late. So, first and foremost, I’m on time to Seminary.
  • Start class on time every day. When it’s time to start, start — even if there’s only one student in the room.
  • I make it easy for students to know if they’re on time or not. If they enter Seminary through an open door; they’re on time. If they have to open the door to our classroom; they’re tardy. The class presidency is responsible for closing the door at the appropriate time each morning. (Opening the Seminary door serves as a subtle reminder. Nothing needs to be said as they enter the room, but they have just been reminded.)
  • As one of my student officers, I call a “Quizmeister.” Their responsibility is to arrive early, select a daily scripture mastery quiz for that day, and place a copy at the desk of each Seminary student.As students enter the Seminary room, their quiz is waiting for them. If they complete their quiz and turn it in to me before the door closes, then they receive extra credit (or extra Mormon Money, depending on what we’re doing that month).

    If they don’t turn their quiz in on time, they must stop working on it once Seminary begins. They may take it with them as they leave class, though, and complete it sometime during the day.

    They may turn it in to me (for half of the extra credit or Mormon Money) the following morning, IF they turn it in before Seminary starts. (Points for the previous day’s quizzes drop to zero the moment the door closes on a new day.)

    The quizzes I use are found in the Seminary Scripture Mastery Resource packets (fill-in-the-blanks, multiple choice, scrambled scriptures, matching, missing words, byte-size keywords, picture clues matching, etc.), but any short quizzes can be used.

  • At random, infrequent intervals I provide an additional “Seminary treat” (usually in the form of a Seminary bookmark, mini-poster, or glue-in) to students who are on time that day.
  • Twice a year I have an unannounced “Great and Dreadful Day.” Here’s how it works:
  • I select a day during the semester (usually toward the end of the semester).
  • I ask a member of the bishopric to teach tardy students that day.
  • Students who are in the Seminary room when the door closes on that day leave with me, and we drive to my home for a wonderful breakfast.
  • Students who are late have a lesson with a member of the branch presidency (which usually consists of scripture mastery games — so, although they don’t get breakfast — they can have a fun time, too).
  • I reminder them periodically that the “Great and Dreadful Day” is coming and that they need to be constantly prepared.
  • This event has some excellent teaching points that can be drawn with the actual “Great and Dreadful Day” that stands in the future for all of us.
  • I think it’s important to give students and parents feedback on their attendance and punctuality. Each term I have each student fill out a “Term Report” that includes, among other things, the number of days they attended and the number of days they were tardy.
  • For students (and/or families) that have a particularly hard time with this aspect of their life, I talk to them more frequently. I use the following schedule to help students:
  • Talk with parents and their student(s) before the Seminary year begins. We discuss punctuality, and I ask students and parents to make a commitment to attend Seminary on time.
  • If a student is having a clear problem, I meet with just them. I try to find out if there are any “systemic problems” with their getting to Seminary — such as, Dad or Mom are the ones having the hard time getting out of bed. I ask them to recommit themselves to being on time.
  • If meeting with just the student doesn’t solve the problem, then I meet with the parents and the student again.
  • If the problem continues, I ask the home teachers and visiting teachers to see what support they can provide.
  • (The steps above usually solve or reduce the problem.)
    But if punctuality is still a problem, then I ask the Bishopric for whatever help they can provide.
  • I jokingly encourage my students to emulate President Hinckley’s punctuality at General Conference. If he ever starts General Conference late, then I will let them come the same number of minutes late during the entire next term. If, on the other hand, he starts Conference on time, I will expect them to be at Seminary on time. It makes the point subtly, but effectively.
  • Periodically, I ask students (punctual and not punctual) to prepare a special devotional on related topics: respect for others, punctuality, time management, courtesy, etc.
  • At random intervals throughout the year, I also give students additional glue quotes on topics — such as, punctuality — that may be a challenge for class members that year. I’ve included a sample glue-in quotation from Elder Marvin J. Ashton at the end of this message.
  • Each term and also at the end of the Seminary year, I make up a nice certificate for each student who has achieved “90% punctuality” and those who have achieved “Perfect Punctuality”. (In the years I’ve taught, I’ve had several students who have earned the “100% punctuality” awards for all 4 years of Seminary.)

I’ve found that punctuality isn’t something that is achieved and then can be ignored. Some students (and families) will struggle with it every day. 

Being punctual is a habit, and the sooner our students make it part of their lives, the better off they’ll be.

Best wishes,

Ken Alford

Kenneth L. Alford

Department: Church History

Title: Associate Professor

Office: 316D JSB

Bio: Dr. Kenneth L. Alford is an Associate Professor of Church History and Doctrine. After serving almost 30 years on active duty in the United States Army, he retired as a Colonel in 2008. While on active military duty, Ken served in numerous assignments, including the Pentagon, eight years teaching computer science and information systems engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and four years as a Professor of Behavioral Science and Department Chair at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. After serving in the England Bristol Mission, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Brigham Young University, a Master of Arts in International Relations from the University of Southern California, a Master of Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Ph.D. in computer science from George Mason University. He has published and presented on a wide variety of subjects during his career. His current research focuses on Latter-day Saint military service. Ken and his wife, Sherilee, have four children and thirteen grandchildren. 


Jenny Smith
Jenny Smith is a designer who started blogging in 2004 to share lesson and activity ideas with members of her home branch Mississippi. Her collection has grown, and she now single-handedly manages the world's largest collection of free lesson help for LDS teachers with faceted search. Her library includes teaching techniques, object lessons, mini lessons, handouts, visual aids, and doctrinal mastery games categorized by scripture reference and gospel topic. Jenny loves tomatoes, Star Trek, and her family -- not necessarily in that order.
Jenny Smith is a designer, blogger, and tomato enthusiast who lives in Virginia on a 350+ acre farm with her husband and one very grouchy cat.
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