Some of us will be teaching classes during the inauguration on Tuesday, including during Obama's speech. Perhaps some classes can watch the speech live as part of a course-related activity, but that's not realistic in a large introductory physical science class.
Those of us who will miss the speech because we are teaching can listen to it later, after class, and of course any students who are so inclined can do so as well. There are perhaps some students who will skip class to listen to the speech live, and I don't have any problem with that. Even so, these students are responsible for the course material they miss, just the same as if they missed the class for another good reason (major illness), a semi-good reason (missed the bus), a semi-bad reason (weather not sufficiently nice to venture outside), or a bad reason (too busy updating Facebook page).
Although I will go out of my way to help someone in dire need, there is a large gray area in which I cannot distinguish between the goodness or badness of the excuse for skipping class. Of course, many students don't bother with an excuse, but I tend to hear a lot of class-skipping-reasons anyway, especially once students realize that there is an exam question or two from every class. Perhaps the students think that I will hand over my non-existent lecture notes to them or tell them exactly what will be on the exams if their excuse is good enough, but what students find compelling and what I find compelling tend to be different things. Examples:
- Didn't have enough quarters for a parking meter so unable to attend class? FSP says: not compelling.
- Had to help a friend move? FSP says: nice but not compelling.
- Mother made a doctor's appointment for you and the appointment was for a time during the class? FSP says: give your mom your course schedule and/or make your own appointments; not compelling.
- Had to be in court to argue about unpaid speeding tickets? FSP says: I hope you won; not compelling.
- Went to a rally about Tibet, baby seals, war(s), state funding for the university etc? FSP says: That's great and maybe even compelling, but I can't give an automatic get-out-of-class-free-card to students who go to rallies or marches or protests or sit-ins and I'm not going to help one student more than another just because I think a particular cause is more important than another.
- Innocent bystander at a sports-related riot that resulted in the loss of a semi-major organ? FSP says: compelling, don't worry about the course, I'll help you when you recover.
Owing to the continuous stream of reasons/excuses ranging from the convincing to the bizarre and owing to the difficulty of making fine distinctions among the non-emergency reasons, I treat everyone the same; that is, I place the responsibility on the student to get class notes from another student, to read the relevant pages in the textbook, to look over the review material, and then come to me with informed questions. After a student has made some effort and worked on the review material that I provide for the class, I will answer their questions and try to dispel any lingering confusion. I will not start from zero and re-do my lecture for them just because they missed class, no matter what the non-emergency reason.
I hope some of my students do miss class to listen to the speech on Tuesday if this is important to them, and then I hope that they shoulder their responsibility as students and put in the time and effort necessary to make up for the information they missed.
5 weeks ago