(Here I am already! Returning to school may give me more ideas for blogging than I can keep up with! A quick post because it is timely for me… and important. Critical even. I hope you feel the same. A couple programming notes: Tonight, 9/17, 6 p.m. if you have some time, join me as @YouTern’s guest on Twitter for their #InternPro chat. We’re talking about “School and Career Success: The Art of Interacting with Professors.” Could the topic be any more parallel after you read today’s post? Join the conversation! And tomorrow, 9/18… big day! UW Bookstore! Who’s visiting at 7 p.m.?).
I want to preface this post by saying two things: First, as always, the nature of these e-mails has been heavily changed to protect student privacy. Second, beyond this post, let me reiterate my blog’s disclaimer: As a general rule, I will not write about specific occurrences that exist in a current term to maintain my students’ comfort and privacy. Now, on to the e-mails:
“I am in Bora Bora and my flight could be delayed. I may be late to class on our first day and wanted to let you know.”
“I have an obligation for another program and cannot make our first class meeting. Can someone else come to class for me.”
“I am out of town and won’t be at our first class. Can you please let me know what I am going to miss?”
At my college, students will return on September 24th. These e-mails have filed in over the past week and a half. I am a little concerned about how many more may still arrive between now and next week.
I teach hybrid courses that meet just once per week in a block of time, either two hours or four hours. The rest is online. If you miss one, it is like missing two or even four traditionally scheduled classes.
We both know that when I pick my class times and when students pick class times, we commit to those times, right? The date that fall term starts is publicized, as well. So, the information is known and we can all adjust our schedules accordingly.
I have seen many college success books and articles discuss the topic of missing the first day of class. The general recommendation is, of course, that you shouldn’t. This particular issue is peppered by students probably believing that they are doing the correct and responsible thing by e-mailing ahead of time. I have to say that exact scenarios like these are the key reasons ones I compiled 10 years of notes for STNT, and why I believed that students deserved to know what faculty really think when these situations happen. With missing the first day and these e-mails, I find it almost tragic that students may not connect the fundamental work ethic issue.
I recently blogged about how much I liked one Huffington Post student author’s take on the idea that college should be seen as a 9-5 job. I am so wanting to run with that thought more and more… shout it from the rooftops! What if a boss received an e-mail like these about the first day of work?
What if my boss received the following e-mail about my first day of work?:
“Dear Vice President,
I’m unable to come to my classes on the first day. I have another obligation. Can you please get someone to cover for me? Let me know what they do while I’m gone.
How would that fly?
Or, let’s try this one:
“Dear New Boss,
I’m going to be a half-hour late for my first day on the job. I had a trip scheduled and this is when my flight gets in. I know jobs are still hard to come by these days, and lots of people are standing in line for this one. I also know that you’re paying me a salary, but I booked this trip and this couldn’t be helped.
I’ll be right in when my flight lands (if my flight isn’t delayed and if baggage claim doesn’t take forever).
I think I’m making my point.
Wonderful students, you probably already know that receiving this type of e-mail doesn’t exactly kick off the greatest relationship with your professor. I won’t hold grudges with these students. That’s not who I am, by any means. But we’re just starting off. Before we’ve even met, I’ve already had to be direct and that doesn’t feel so great i.e.,:
“I totally understand your situation. Our class meets just once a week. You stand to miss a lot of information that very first class session when we will meet for pretty much the entire time. If you absolutely must miss, then I will need you to be responsible for going into the course management system, reviewing the syllabus and all of the start-up materials thoroughly and coming back to me with questions after you’ve taken responsibility to bring yourself up to speed.”
In other words, I need the student to be fully proactive and responsible for the choices that he/she is making, and not ask me for permission. After all, I can’t give 20-something other people permission to miss that first class, can I?
I know that for many of you reading this, college has already started. If this post can pre-emptively make a difference for just one student who may reconsider skipping the first day of spring term or any term, it will be worth it to me to get this topic out in the open.
Let’s focus on professionalism here. Like I said, I’m totally on to this concept of embracing college as a job.
If that’s the case, day 1 is the day to set the absolute best impression, make that important first-day connection with your prof and your peers, and kick your term off right.
Even going into class a day or two later can mean stressful catch-up for you.
You deserve a smoother start than that and I want you to have it!
I invite commentary from my academic and non-academic colleagues (and that always includes students, too!) on this subject!