Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hating Class-missing Activities

Not really. I know extra-classroom activities are important to students' college experiences.

But I hate the number of times I get excuse notes from a given activity coordinator or faculty member. The rules say that I have to accomodate the students, give them make up quizzes or whatever.

And mostly these students are good folks. Typically, they're earnest, hard-working, disciplined, good classroom contributors. So I'm not irritated at the students, but at the extra work these excused absences require of me (because I'm a lazy so and so).

The questions of the day, then: Does your school limit the number of excused absences any given activity can request?

For example, can the Football coach request that students on the team miss 7 Fridays out of 15 in a fall semester? (For travel days, or practice on Friday morning before travel.)

What number of excused absences do you think is reasonable to allow?

Do you think it's okay for a school chorus to go on a tour for a week and miss all classes that week?

Can I require students to miss a sport practice in order to do a required activity for my class? Should I be able to?


Editing for further thinking.

I should be able to just easily accommodate these students, and the ones who are sick and don't do the assignment, miss the quiz, or whatever.

BUT, I plan the heck out of my classes. I try to make sure that readings make sense in their order, discussion topics and readings build on one another, quizzes contribute to student learning, in class activities and exercises help students learn in different ways. I try to accomodate different learning styles, using different strategies to help students practice skills in reading, writing, discussion, group work, notetaking.

I've been averaging 10-15 emails or excuses a week lately. Any one of these, by itself, isn't outrageous in any way. But if I plan on about a quiz a week, and even one student in each class needs to take a make-up quiz, then I have to write not three, but six quizzes. And if the students can't all make it to my office hour at the same time to take the make up, then more.

If I get sick, of course, we probably cancel class, and then I have to figure out how to make things work for the students.

BUT, I don't lose my paycheck. If I get sick, I can take a sick day. If I miss meetings, they'll probably happen without me, though I may get stuck with extra work (Hey, Bardiac would probably be willing to do task X, right?).

And in most adult situations, if I get sick or need to do X that I consider important, people at my job will accommodate my needs. As an adult, I hope for and expect reasonable accommodation. I can file a tax extension, reschedule most appointments, and so forth.

So I'm conflicted: sure, I should accommodate my students as adults. But dang, having to think of and write six useful quizzes instead of three? Having to figure out how to recreate an exercise for a student who missed working with other students?

I guess the planned excused absences for activities feel as if their schedulers actively disrespect the work I do, and I resent that. They put their activity ahead of my class.

I don't mind students putting health, family, friends, whatever ahead of my class. I just don't think they should expect me to put their stuff ahead of my own stuff. Maybe that's it?


  1. Hmm... for what it's worth, just for comparison, I haven't had a single "official absense" yet this semester, and only two or three total in an average semester. Several a week sounds really excessive to me!

  2. That number of excuses does sound inordinately high. The impression I've gotten here is that staff who coordinate activities are willing to be flexible - for instance, a student of mine is on the baseball team. He'll have to miss three classes for travel over the course of the semester, but he got permission from his coach to arrive late to warm-ups on three more days when he has home games.

    In terms of recreating the work - that's a pain. I'd be tempted to compromise (i.e. require a reading response instead of a quiz for missed days) to slide out of some of that work myself.

  3. As a college debate coach, I know we try to limit days missed and would NEVER, EVER expect a student to miss class for practice reasons... As a prof I'd probably object to the football practice excuse just a bit --- is it really necessary... just to push the issue and register my disaproval.

    I also think you could use the number of excuses to advocate for priority enrollment for certain students -- so they don't have to miss 7 of 15 Fridays, because their classes would be M-Th...

    We don't have a priority enrollment option, but most of my students are on a Monday afternoon to Thursday morning schedule anyway because I told them to do it... whether or not the football coach is doing the same is doubtful.

    As a prof, I'd more or less insist that make-up quizzes be in my office hours or be a writing assignment instead. You had a time set-aside to take the quiz, just because they can't make it on your first time doesn't give them the right to expect to take it when it is convenient for them.

  4. Bardiac,

    Zenith is a D-3 school, so I'm sure the ethic is different, but actually our faculty are such maniacs about students mising class for athletics that there is a whole system in place for athletes to get separate transportation if It keeps them in class; and a faculty member can just say no and the kid has to miss the event.

    That said, very few of us teach on Friday, so that isn't a problem. I too think half the Fridays is a lot -- I give my kids 2 cuts that are freebies and after that things get rougher. I tend to go easy on jocks because I was a jock in college and I identify. But as I say, we are a D-3 school.