Friday, April 11, 2008

Attendance is Mandatory

Lately, my attendance has been bordering on the comically absurd. In both my ENG 100 and 110 classes, the students have somehow gotten it in their heads that they can go ahead and miss class after class and only show up when a paper is due. I have combatted this problem in the past by using reading quizzes. I've given a reading quiz every day this week and it has not solved the problem as of yet. I'm at wit's end on this one. It is so frustrating when I walk into my ENG 100 class and I see less than ten students in the classroom. Half of those students were not there last time, so they are not prepared to take part in class discussion. Angry... Very Angry.

Discussion does come in to play a lot in my classroom. I am a creative writer, and I was raised on workshopping. Workshopping requires the critical feedback of the students in order to function properly, so I always look for that feedback. I also, as a result of my creative writing background, tend to imagine the author of the text, whether it be Molly Ivins, George W. Bush or Frederick Douglass, as in the room, so I try to stick with constructive criticism. I don't want to hurt their feelings... not even Bush.

I try and keep the students diplomatic as well. With discussion comes disagreement. I try to push that these are just issues. We are not putting anyone down by saying the opinion is wrong. We are not attacking the person; we are attacking the idea or the argument. Yet, some students have a hard time grasping this, and tend to take some argumentation as thinly veiled personal attack rather than logical debate. I don't want anybody to hate anybody else; that's how wars happen. The best kind of debate is when two people can shake hands and part ways without voicing the fact that they both wish death on the other.

I used a coin flip in class twice this week to avoid showing a bias.


Anonymous said...

My attendance in every class is apparently outstanding compared to other GA's. I feel disgruntled and off put if five people are missing and have never had a class with more than eight students both semesters.

I do not attribute this to my riveting and engaging monotonous personality or the sheer depth and splendor of my instruction on the profoundness of the written word, but I do not know what to attribute it to.

What I do is take attendance and when I go through attendance, I ask them if there is anything worth wild or interesting going on in their life. This usually just lasts five minutes and that is nothing when you have the full hour and fifteen minutes of a Tuesday Thursday class. And then if more than five people are absent, I give them a five point quiz which they have to try to fail. Often times I will simply give them the answer because the quiz is meant to have a little fun and reward the students who come. While I agree we shouldn’t reward students who do what they are expected to do, it five points out of a thousand. It has no affect on their grade except for raising it from an 89.440 to an 89.445.

The only thing this does is increase some sort of understanding and impression that their attendance is noted somewhere besides a general awareness…or that can go down as the current theory.

And then again it may be my riveting personality, deep and thought provoking lectures, and sheer sexiness, but I highly doubt it.

Megan M. Keadle said...

For the most part I have very few problems with attendance. I have a few who miss consistently and then a few who miss periodically. I generally have a freewrite or some other activity for points and don't let students make them up if they weren't in class (hence the in-class portion of the grading).

What annoys me about when students miss is what annoys everyone else, when they ask, "Did I miss anything?" or "Can you tell me what I missed?" and so on. I am all about helping students succeed but I hate when they just act as if nothing is important. The difference between my students missing class and when I miss class is that I make the effort to find out from someone in the class what happened and if I am still confused, then and only then will I go to my teacher for clarification - it is not his/her responsibility to fill me in on everything I missed.

The only suggestion I have on the attendance front is to do something for points every day. My points range from 2 to 20 a day and there is no telling when it will be what (for my students, I usually know). Also, I use attendance as a final grade determining factor - I have no problems rounding up a grade for a student who has only missed two or three times the entire semester, but I won't do it for someone who is rarely there.

Eric Sentell said...

To keep the students from feeling personally attacked, maybe you could bring in a paper on which you received a ton of constructive criticism. Have them read the original. Then have them read the revision in light of the feedback. Point out how much stronger the revision is and how it would have been impossible without the great constructive criticism you received. You could even point out authors who received tons of feedback on their novels, essays, articles, etc. A lot of composition articles seem to have multiple reviewers.