See if you can pinpoint the moment when...

...my heart breaking as the sad violins start in for this poor student. If this weren't so common, it'd warrant being a "Things From My Inbox."

This morning I received this in my inbox from a student:
I wanted to let you know that I will not be in class on 3/25 or 3/27. I am
going on vacation with my family to Hawaii, we leave on the 15th and won't
be back until the 30th. I am not sure if you have in class assignments
planed already for those days but I would not want to get too far behind...
Please note that I received this e-mail a day before Spring Break. Do you hear the violins yet? Keep listening, but don't quit your day job. There's a funny juxtaposition here, as another student came to class looking like Death's three day old left-overs, with a note about kidney dysfunction, upset and on the verge of tears - in spite of having about as valid a reason as you could have for missing a class or turning something in late. Why was the near-waterworks? Because their assignment wasn't done, and they wanted a one hour extension.

Why? Why the guilt over one hour (and I'd have given any amount of time based on the note the doctor wrote) when another student feels not the slightest shame over a vacation in the middle of the term?

Honestly, if you know any parents, do me a favor. Call them up and tell them it is not okay to book a family vacation in the middle of the school year. And when your kid springs this on us, pack up those violins and send the band home, 'cause if it is possible to have negative sympathy, that's one sure way to do it.

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Dr. Crazy said...

This is why I just give students x # of free absences in a semester - their participation grade begins going down once they go beyond their freebies - and advise them not to email me with why they won't be in class. I've never, as far as I can recall, received one of these emails. It does a lot to cut down on resentment :)

(That said, I don't think my student population typically goes on fancy family vacations. Hell, I've had students get married in the middle of a semester and not miss a day of class or go on a honeymoon.)

March 13, 2008 at 12:53 PM
Bardiac said...

What are the parents thinking? This sort of thing happens all the time at my school (not necessarily a fancy vacation, but some family event), and the students feel a HUGE amount of pressure to do the family thing.

I figure it's like a job. They can miss, but the work (on the syllabus) has to be done on time.

March 13, 2008 at 9:45 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Funny, I hadn't clued into the exotic nature of the vacation (which probably is unusual for the population here). It's just crazy that it'd even be a question.

Fortunately, my response was easy since I don't let the make up in-class assignments, and I don't give copies of notes. Still, somehow it's just amazing that someone would think that would fly. Worse, that parents would encourage it.

March 13, 2008 at 9:50 PM
Charlotte said...

I teach at a school primarily for working adults, many of whom are much, much older than me.

I just got an email from one student letting me know he was going on vacation with his wife and wanted to let me know ahead of time.

I do the same thing as dr. crazy and give a set number of absences, for whatever the reason. But students typically feel the need to tell me why exactly they are going to be absent...not like I really care, though I do appreciate the advanced notice.

March 15, 2008 at 12:45 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

My dear friend H. has pointed out that there's a lot I'm taking for granted with this. And as she's often been a touchstone of sanity for me over the years, I'd better elaborate a bit. Plus, I probably came off - or will come off - sounding more angry than I am.

My attendance policy is pretty basic: I don't bother with keeping it. If you feel something is important enough to miss, then do so. But you're responsible for what's missed, and if there's something we do that day that's for a grade, then you've missed it. I don't need to deduct points for missing - or add them for attending - because students who miss do worse.

Almost inevitably, too, the students who do this are the ones who are doing worst already. That's part of the subtext here.

My view - and why I'm frustrated - is that I think one of the main things a college education should give you is the ability to make smart decisions. Taking a vacation in the midst of the term isn't one. Even if there are family issues at hand, there are too many spaces allowed for time off in the term to have to miss a week. It probably doesn't help that I'm someone who plans and who goes through long, laborious processes of prioritizing.

The frustrating part is that it speaks to a particular view of what education is. I won't say that no one did this when I was in school. I just know that I didn't - and I took a lot of trips. I do know that my parents wouldn't have encouraged me to miss a day of college for something they wanted to do. Education was seen - and is seen by me - as too important. This sort of note made it seem like one of those things you pick up at the grocery store if you remember.

March 15, 2008 at 1:09 PM
profacero said...

I always say to this:

"I am so sorry your parents have imposed upon you in this way. I hope next time you will be strong enough to say no."

April 9, 2010 at 10:44 AM