Here's the headline on a story in today's Winnipeg Free Press:
The story says that, under a new provincial policy effective February 1, 2011, [high school, I assume] teachers in Manitoba "will be allowed to dock students marks for late or missing work."
Congratulations (better late than never!)
In the Creative Communications program here at Red River College, where I teach PR, many instructors have a zero tolerance policy on late assignments. If it's due by 9:00 and you hand it in at 9:01, it's late, and you get an F -- even if the work is brilliant.
Harsh? Maybe. Do we need to do this to instil professional attitudes towards work? For some students, you bet we do. (The others are well-organized, and would hand in their work on time whether there was a strict deadline policy or not.) Either way, we're generally the last stop between these students and the professional workplace; it's a far less painful lesson to learn here than out there, where it counts.
There's a bit of a learning curve on this one with some people, and I don't blame them: I blame the system that has raised them to think deadlines are optional. I can't tell you how many students who've entered our program with undergraduate degrees in hand, have told me they've never been penalized for late assignments.
What's the big deal?
The big deal is that, once you get into the working world (in PR, but I'm sure in many if not most other professions), deadlines matter immensely. And if you haven't had to train yourself to organize your work and manage your time, you're going to have a tough go of it (and potentially lose some great opportunities) because you're unreliable.
The 6:00 news can't start at 6:02.
A proposal due at 2:00 won't be accepted at 2:01.
A job interview may well be cancelled if the interviewer enters the lobby to greet you and finds you're not there on time.
As it happens, I was writing this post as the "Solo PR" chat (a forum for freelance PR folks) was happening on Twitter. Here's one tweet that turned up on my desktop as I was writing:
Even when your deadline doesn't involve a timed broadcast, or an acceptance deadline for a proposal, or an important interview, in PR you have to be on time for everything.
Why? It's not just about showing that you have your act together and are reliable: it's also about showing that you recognize the value of other people's time.
Want to be taken seriously and have credibility as a professional? The first step is to be on time. Always, with everything. Being late for a professional commitment can be humiliating, I've learned (the hard way).
It's never too early
I could never quite believe our educational system had a policy against penalties for late submissions, but now that it's been overturned, all I can say is "phew." I realize that high school is not college or university - but it is where we're supposed to learn all the foundational lessons we'll need to be productive adults (besides the lessons we need to learn at home, that is).
While I'm not a science or math guy particularly, I fully appreciate the value of forcing students to get a well-rounded education before choosing a specialty to build on.
But if you want to know which topics I think are most vital to professional success, time management would be near the top of the list.