This morning, I posted the following rant on my school’s email system. This is probably the first of multiple such things I’ll write soon, but I won’t inflict the rest on my poor coworkers–I’ll just bury them here. The feedback on this rant (really, the first such spiel I’ve let loose with at work in a long time) has been mostly positive, and our terrific administrative team has been very patient with me, trying to do their best and make everybody happy (I’m always sorry if my stunts make life hard for them):
I want to ask everybody to please do what they can to keep students in all of their classes during the day. When we tell students that they can do something other than be in someone else’s class, we’re telling them that that class isn’t important, and that the work in it can be done any other time because, apparently, it’s easy.
I know that the scheduling for a lot of activities is out of our hands, but for anything that we can control, can we please limit as much as possible the time that any students might spend out of class? It’s bad enough that many parents and students think they can take endless days off for vacations with no consequences, but it’s far worse when we send the same message.
Please don’t suggest that students get out of another class so they can come be in yours. That’s an insult to the other teacher. Please don’t send the message that “make up work,” especially for some other class, is the same as being in class. It’s not. Students need to know that making up missed work, if possible at all, is harder, takes longer, and probably still won’t be done as well. That’s true of any work worth doing.
We need to teach our students that in real life, there are no “excused absences.” You’re either here or you’re not. You either do the work or you don’t. It doesn’t matter why. Your priorities are your choices, and choices have natural consequences.
Yes, the school activities that students miss class for are good things, but we could fill every day with these “good things,” if we wanted to. What matters most is being in class as much as possible. Sending any other message is irresponsible.
Sorry for the long rant, but I’ve really had enough of having class after class disregarded by students who’ve been told that they can miss yet another class for some fun thing they want to go do, and then make up my work later. This happens to a lot of teachers here and, in the long run, is a huge disservice to our students.
In the last three days, the following all happened: one student skipped out on a class for a club activity I wasn’t made aware of and, when he returned, seemed genuinely confused and irritated that “make up work” wouldn’t be easy or automatic. Several other students interrupted me in the middle of another class to announce that they got to leave for something else, and were confused that I wasn’t similarly ecstatic for them. This morning, yet another student asked if we were doing “anything important” today, because she wanted to go work in another class.
These are all really decent kids, and they had absolutely no idea how insufferably obnoxious they were being. But isn’t that the worst part?
Again, for all of my ironic bluster in class, I take my classes extremely seriously, and if I perceive something as infringing upon my time, or belittling my class, I take it personally and get quite offended.
If you think this is blown out of proportion or not a problem at all, ask yourself this: what would happen if a math or science or English teacher tried to “excuse” students from a meeting of one of their clubs or teams or something so they could come do more things for their class? Ridiculous, right? But these are core classes! Why do we accept time being stolen from them for less important things? Doesn’t this all seem backwards?