Students, Stop Telling me you Won't be in Class

Every semester I get emails from students that bother me. Every teacher has different preferences. I don’t expect students to have mine memorized. Even so, I still find some especially annoying. The one that has been bothering me this week is the “hey, I won’t be in class, just so you know” email. I get it, I just don’t care—unless you make it my problem too.

I Get It

I was an undergraduate student too. I remember, and I understand. I don’t expect my class to always be your top priority, and it doesn’t bother me if it isn’t. Most traditional college students are new to adulthood, and I remember being new to adulthood myself. Being an adult almost always means juggling a variety of responsibilities and having to pick which ones are the most important at any given time. Sometimes you will have to prioritize your other classes. It doesn’t matter to me what your reason is. If it is important enough to you to miss class, then it is important to you, and that is what matters. It isn’t my place to judge your reasons for not being in class. I get it, and it doesn’t bother me.

I Don’t Care

Don’t get me wrong—I care about you as a person. The thing is, it doesn’t affect me one way or another if you are in class. I don’t plan my classes around your presence, and I don’t wait to start class until you get there. I do the same thing whether you are there or not, so it doesn’t matter to me if you will be in class. Heck, as a faceblind person, I probably wouldn’t even notice that you weren’t there except for in classes where I take attendance (and even then I still struggle to connect your name with who you actually are anyway).

Except When You Make it My Problem Too

What does bother me is when you want to prioritize for free. When you trade off one priority for another, there is always a cost. I just want you to handle it like an adult. You have plenty of classmates to get information from about the class that you missed, so don’t ask me what you missed. Course policies for attendance, missed deadlines, and missing coursework were all detailed in the course documents you have had access to since the beginning of the semester. Be an adult and accept the outcomes of your actions—they should not be a surprise to you.

There are certain times when basic human compassion means you should be exempted from the costs of missing a class. Fortunately, the vast majority of these instances are already covered under university policies for things like grief, illness, military service, etc.