This is the speech I deliver to students in the first week regarding my attendance policies.
Look, I know things happen. Sometimes you have to miss class. Sometimes these reasons are worthwhile and sometimes they are not. I am not the decider of which is which. That’s up to you. Just know if you miss more than three classes you can get a reduction in grades and more than five can mean you’d fail the course.
I don’t really get into the differences of excused absences and unexcused ones. Please don’t email me asking for permission to miss class. I don’t and can’t give it. If you are an adult missing class you are making a choice and I respect that. I hope you will respect my choice not to be the arbiter of acceptable and unacceptable excuses. That’s not my job. I’m your teacher. I am not your father. I am not your mother. I am not your priest. I am here to help you learn, I am not here to help you craft more acceptable excuses for missing class. You don’t even need to worry about excuses!
As a starting point I think you are here to learn and my belief is if you have to miss class then you must have a good reason. It is as simple as that. I don’t even need to know the reason. Please note if you tell me the reason you are doing this for you and not for me. You really don’t need to. I don’t care.
If makes no difference if your uncle’s neighbor is opening a bakery is Yeosu; if your hair dresser is in a musical; if you are feeling tired and need to take a break, if your ice cream machine is broken and Tuesday is the only day you can you can get it fixed; if your dog is getting married.
Please don’t take all this to mean I don’t care about you or your life (or your dog or piano!), I just mean I don’t need to know your reasons missing class. If you have some bad things going on in life I’d like to think I’d empathize but this is a separate issue from giving permission to miss class.
I don’t give permission to miss class. Even if you ask me for permission I won’t give it. My most common response is something like, “Thanks so much for letting me know. I hope blank goes well for you.” So, please, by all means, tell me you will be missing class and even tell me why if you want to. Just don’t ask me for permission. I think it is good manners to let me know if you are going to miss class. It helps me plan better and also helps stop me from worrying if you are not there. It also helps me look very smart when I know in advance you will not be there. It might even help me save paper.
I hope this makes some sense. I know it might sound a bit strange and unusual or even harsh but I also know it helps me focus on teaching.
Notes and Truths:
- I’m probably 20% less sarcastic when I say it to students. I also hope I’m less long-winded!
- This was written with extremely high level students in mind so the high level language here is not an issue.
- Even with lower level students I generally try to have a no permission policy in my classes. It saves me so many headaches.
- Some of my classes are pass/fail so the letter grade threat is moot, to be honest.
- Most of my classes are highly motivated so students tend to come to class as often as they can anyway.
- I have had what felt like success with this policy with less motivated students. I don’t enjoy the position of needing to decide what excuses are acceptable. I find it very tiring and an inefficient use of my time.
- Severe health problems (for the students or family members) is an obvious exception.
Comments of any sort very welcome.