Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ask the Blogosphere: Warning Professors about Absences

A cc student asked me to get feedback from the active faculty out there on the following:

I am an adult student in my final year of CC and will graduate with an AA degree in May. Next semester I am taking two night classes which each meet once per week. Unfortunately I will be out of town the first week of classes. I am considering my options, but am extremely nervous about consulting my potential professors regarding this. I am an avid reader of academic blogs (hoping to become a professor myself someday), and it seems many professors do not take kindly to these types of "issues" in regards to their students.

If I knew any students in the classes, I would ask them to fill me in, but since it's the first night, I don't have any "study buddies" yet. So here are the options as I see them (I cannot change my travel schedule):

#1) Email the professors now and let them know that I am excited about taking their class next semester, even though I am not happy about needing to miss that first week. I would then ask if they would be willing to mail me any materials handed out the first class (such as a syllabus) and advise me of any assignments due that following week, so I would be able to turn them in on time when I return. I would, of course, provide them with a SASE to do this.

#2) Call the professors on the phone and continue with #1.

#3) Go to the professor's office hours, and proceed with #1 and #2. In the case of at least one of the two professors, I would need to take time off work to do so - not a simple prospect in my line of work.

#4) Do not inform the professors of anything, and just show up to the second class unprepared and completely clueless about what happened the previous week. Then bug them asking for a syllabus and such.

How does the blogosphere of professors suggest I proceed? Would any of these be offensive, or just slightly annoying. Would any of these be welcome? Somehow I doubt it.

If it makes any difference, I have a 4.0, am very serious about school, etc. Blah, blah, blah.......

For my money, option 4 is the most common and least desirable way to go. Options 2 and 3 strike me as within reason. Option 1 isn’t awful, but it’s kind of impersonal. If I were on the receiving end of a letter like that, I’d want to talk with the student directly.

Whatever you do, don’t miss a class, go incommunicado, then waltz in and ask “did I miss anything?” That’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to an instructor. In a fit of pique, I once answered it “No. We sat on our hands for the entire class period, waiting for you.”

Although different personalities handle it differently, I tend to be more inclined to cut slack when the absence is announced well in advance. Excuses after the fact just aren’t as convincing, most of the time.

Professors of the blogosphere – what do you think?