Two truths and a lie: I am almost legally blind; I have five siblings; I love the mandatory course attendance. Believe it or not, but waking up for biology class at 8 a.m. isn’t how I’d like to start every morning — so in first grade, I slept.
I in no way encourage anyone to skip class. I love academia; I like to learn. But at the same time, I can’t stand any course schedule that requires class attendance.
Obviously, I’m not talking about courses or labs that involve students taking hands-on approaches. You should go to your chemistry lab. I call these courses – usually general courses, but definitely higher level courses – where you sit in a hard plastic chair for an hour listening to an instructor read from the same powerpoint that you could have read yourself from a couch. Teachers should not award attendance points for this practice.
You reap what you sow. If you can learn the material and complete the homework without leaving the margins of your bedroom, then go for it. We do not care? Tuition fees have already been paid. You will find out on the day of the test whether your learning process is effective or not. Bad grade? Try going to your conference. Another bad grade? It is more than your presence.
Dr. Lynn Herrmann, associate professor of public health and health education in the NIU School of Health Studies, takes a more balanced approach to the topic. She understands that this is not a problem. “You pay tuition, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to come to class,” Herrmann said. “You wouldn’t pay for food and pick up.”
That being said, she understands, things happen. Send an email; All is well. What’s not so cool is when it becomes habitual. It’s the chronic absences that will raise eyebrows, requiring legitimate documentation to relax them, especially if the professor wants to give you a hard time.
Before you turn off your morning alarms, it would be an injustice not to recognize the clear and directly proportional relationship between class attendance and student performance.
write for Macmillan Apprenticeship, Jeff Bergin and Lisa Ferarra write that course attendance provides non-content-specific contextual information that would otherwise not be found in a textbook. Simply put, literally listening to your teacher’s lecture helps you digest the material, no surprises. Getting to class also helps you stay on track with what’s expected. Having a poor memory myself, I find hearing reminders from my teacher about upcoming homework and exams during class to be super helpful and much easier to understand than a hidden NIUBb-NoReply email in my Outlook.
While there are definitely pros, there are definitely downsides. In the age of pandemics, I should be allowed to stay home if I’m not feeling well, just as I hope my peers will do the same. However, professors who only allow excused absences upon receipt of a doctor’s note aren’t just embarrassing — they’re classist. The reality is that seeking medical care can be expensive, even with health insurance. Not everyone has the financial freedom to see a doctor all the time.
Although Dr. Herrmann makes an excellent point in that the existence of documents generally serves to protect the student in the event of a professor-student conflict. Either way, the professors shouldn’t make me pay for an expensive piece of paper to miss class, nor do I think I owe them an explanation in the first place.