Students get "sick." Okay, it happens.
Why more students get sick on Fridays, specifically, is more troubling. Or, as we put it around the Northwoods, Thursday is the new Friday. And sometimes Wednesday is the new Friday. Here in the Northwoods, we support grain industries in major ways. Oh yes. Anything to help the economy!
I have no doubt whatsoever that my absent students feel lousy. Some of them really are sick. Some of them are so hungover that they're going to spend the day worshipping the porcelain gods. Some of them are dealing with serious personal or familial problems. And some of them feel lousy because they didn't do the reading and aren't prepared with whatever they were asked to do for today in class, so they don't come.
It's only really a problem for me in classes where I give fairly regular (though unannounced) quizzes, especially in first year classes. (Is there a real reason why first year students seem to get sick more often? Or is that just my own false perception?)
Other than wishing in a vague way that everyone on earth were always healthy, including my students, I really don't worry when an individual student misses a class because I figure they're adults, and things happen, and they make choices. And sometimes my class isn't first priority. I can accept that.
The problem is, they ALL want to "make up" the quizzes, or be excused, or something. If this were one person, say once a week, I'd probably be more sympathetic. But, especially for Friday quizzes, it's more like five people. And they all want me to schedule a special and different time to do their make-up. And I'm lazy. Were I truly nice, I'd gladly give make-up quizzes to everyone.
Here's the thing, though: it's extra work to make up additional quizzes, and my class quizzes aren't really just "did you read this" quizzes. They're also a way for me to get us talking about what I think was most important in the readings. So I've chosen the questions carefully. (This is one of those "takes a more time than you'd think" things about teaching.)
I've also instructed students that if they miss class, they need to get notes from someone else in class BEFORE they come to class the next time. To emphasize how important I think this is, I even have them exchange phone numbers and emails with other people in the class during the first class day. Of course, most students simply don't bother to get those notes, so I could give them the same quiz I gave the class a day or two earlier. But anyone who did get notes would be prepared for exactly the questions on the quiz, assuming that they got notes from someone who actually paid attention and took notes.
For serious health and emergency issues, they notify the dean's office and the dean's office sends an official excuse. I have NO problem trying to accommodate these students, though it's really difficult to accommodate someone who misses 20% of a class.
The problem I have is with the students who aren't in class for more mundane reasons. I'm not interested in trying to judge the validity of their absences at all. I just want to find a way to deal with them all fairly without making myself a ton of extra work.
Please tell me this problem isn't unique to me?
Does anyone have a really good solution?
The problem's compounded when they miss a peer revision day and expect me to find them a group and make time for them to do in-class work they missed. How do you deal with that one?