How do you handle illegitimate absences in your classes?

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by onestepcloser, Sep 11, 2010.

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  1. onestepcloser

    onestepcloser Companion

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    Sep 12, 2010

    Yeah, I have no problem re-teaching in extra help, but I can't do it during the class, as the rest of the class has to move forward.

    So in terms of dealing solely with students missing work and needing to catch up, the responsibility lies on them to get the missed work and complete it, right?
     
  2. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 12, 2010

    Right.
     
  3. onestepcloser

    onestepcloser Companion

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    Thanks so much for your insight and patience. I just wanted toget a handle on how to best approach this now since I can tell it may be an issue (seeing as I had a student skip the first few days already, having never even been to the class!)
     
  4. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 12, 2010

    That's my take on it, its' whats best for ME.

    Only you can decide what's best for you.
     
  5. dovian

    dovian Comrade

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    Sep 12, 2010

    In my mind there's a difference between an unexcused absence and a cut. Unexcused absence = you never came to school and didn't bring a note. Cut = you were in the building but you missed my class. For a cut, well, it depends - if I collected something and you turn it in later, you'll lose points. If I assigned something, if you somehow manage to find out about it and turn it in, whatever. I'll grade it. If you cut because of a test, darn sure you are going to take that test. For some reason to my students a zero + not having to take the test is preferable to a 32 after taking the test. So they WILL take it, and I will take points off for cutting.

    Unexcused absences are harder. I don't always know whether a kid brought in a note or not without going into their individual attendance records - we have a system where the notes go straight to the office to get recorded and then go back to the advisor. Teachers don't see them unless the kid brings in a second note for that purpose. I tend to assume they were legitimately ill if it's just a once in a while thing. If there's a pattern then I check with the attendance secretary or admins to see what's up.
     
  6. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Sep 12, 2010

    Our district does have a policy to hold parents (or guardian) accountable for student absences. If a student had too many absences, they could be summoned to court to explain the absences and, last year, one parent was actually put in jail for allowing their child to lay out of school.

    The current policy (for middle school students) is 6 unexcused absences or 14 total absences. IF a student reaches either of these numbers, the principal will investigate and determine if the parent/guardian must meet with an Attendance Committee, which usually consists of the principal, one middle school teacher and the school counselor. The student and parent/guardian will be given the opportunity to explain the absences to the Committee and the members will decide if further action should be taken.

    My ex was threatened with a court appearance when my oldest son missed several days due to severe allergies. She explained the absences and the school accepted the explanation. Since it was seasonal allergies, she didn't have a doctor's excuse for each absence.

    On the other hand, I had two 7th grade students miss class on the day of a test last year during my ST. I was especially upset when their classmates told me the reason the students weren't there yet is because they had gone to the special "Midnight Matinee" to see the newest Twilight movie (AFTER playing a basketball game earlier that evening). The two students in question DID show up during the middle of the class period. I told them going to a midnight movie was NOT an acceptable reason for missing my class, much less for missing a test. Since they did come to class, I gave them the remaining time to work on the test. So they did get the test, but only had half the time of their classmates to complete it.

    I am very strict about student responsibility. I agree with the PP who said we are teaching these kids to give a minimal effort when we don't hold them accountable. The sooner they learn THEY are responsible for their actions AND the consequences that come with those actions, the better prepared they will be for life after school.
     
  7. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Sep 12, 2010

    If the parents wrote a note about them being absent, you overstepped your authority big time. It's not your job to deem absences acceptable or not that's your boss' job. I would be livid if one of my teachers did that. It's an insult to my authority. Also, never go by what your students say. My students thought a student this year was absent because he didn't want to take the final...too bad he had bipolar. Guess who this student was? My son. I was furious that a teacher even entertained that discussion in class, it just made my son more anxious.
     
  8. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Sep 13, 2010

    The parents didn't write a note (as far as I know). They just brought the students to school when they finally woke up and got ready after being at the theater until 2:30am on a school night. The students were marked "tardy" by the office and sent to class.

    When I was taking attendance, I asked the class if anybody knew what happened to the two students. I was concerned they may have gotten sick. Their teammates told me they had gone to the Midnight Matinee. When the students finally arrived, they confirmed that was the reason they were late for school. I told them going to a movie was not an acceptable reason for missing a test, but I still gave them the remaining class time to complete the test.

    I understand your position. You're right that I don't have the authority to officially classify a tardiness (or absence) as excused or unexcused, nor was I doing that. I was commenting on their choice to make a movie more important than a test, not on the official status of their tardiness. If that still makes you livid, then I guess we will just have to respectfully disagree on the issue.
     
  9. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Sep 13, 2010

    I'm just stepping in to comment on parent notes regarding absences and tardies.

    At my school the appropriate procedure is for parents to submit excuse notes to the attendance office. Sometimes students arrive late to school for whatever reason, so the parent writes a note excusing the tardy. Unfortunately, while our school accepts notes excusing an absence, we do not accept notes from parents excusing a tardy. For most students this would pose no problem because everyone is essentially allowed one freebie when it comes to tardies.

    Last year in one of the most challenging classes I've ever had, two students who were habitually tardy showed up to class about 15 minutes late. Both had notes from their mothers excusing the tardies. I told the students that I couldn't accept these notes and that they would be marked tardy for the period. The students walked out of my room and went to the deans' office where they made a complaint about me. The dean emailed my supervising administrator and wrote something like, "Mrs. Caesar refused to accept parent notes excusing a tardy today. I (the dean) excused these tardies because the students had a note from their parents. I just wanted to let you know this in case Mrs. Caesar complained to you." The tone of the email was...off. It irritated me a lot when I saw it actually. (I saw it when my supervising administrator CCed me on her reply to the email, quoting the original, and told the dean that teachers have been specifically instructed to NOT accept tardy notes from parents. Apparently the deans' office, in charge of handling tardies and discipline, wasn't aware of this....But that's another story entirely.)

    Ultimately, the mother of one of those students became very upset with me over this tardy issue and other issues. I can see how the mother would be upset that we don't accept tardy notes from parents, but it is what it is. I didn't overstep my authority in any way whatsoever. It's school policy, practiced by all 120 teachers at my school and enforced by at least most of the administrators.
     
  10. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 13, 2010

    I'm very fortunate that in my school, it's not up to the teacher.

    We take attendance each period. We teach whoever is in the room. Kevin takes care of tracking down the absences, and then talks to the deans as necessary.

    It's not our call whether an absence is legal or illegal, justified or unjustified. I would never ask or speculate to other kids.

    The other day I had a kid missing from study hall. I had taught him last year, and KNEW he was in the building. So, in addition to marking him absent, I sent a note to the dean. I was concerned that he had gottten ill.

    He had a pass to talk to the chaplain. No harm, no foul.

    I don't envy those of you who apparently have to concern yourselves not only with who is absent, but why there're missing as well. My day is so busy as it is; I wouldn't want the extra layer of non-teaching work. And it would be overstepping my bounds, big time, if I presumed to be judge and jury as to whether a kid's absence was justified or not. In my building it's an administrative call.
     
  11. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Sep 13, 2010

    I agree. If I've seen a student earlier in the day and they are missing from my class, I may ask others if they know if the student went home, but leave it at that. Anyone not there is marked absent and the office secretaries deal with the reasons why.

    Last year, my daughter missed 11 days of school in April (already a short month because of Easter) because of her participation in the provincial soccer team. She was responsible for all of the material she missed, and still came out with close to top marks in all of her classes. I would not have been happy if my parenting was called into question because of her absence.
     
  12. Shanoo

    Shanoo Habitué

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    Sep 13, 2010

    I completely agree. At our school, we take attendance and submit it to the office. I teach who is there. The only "decision" I make on absences is whether the parent has contacted me about their child missing or not (which gets noted on the absence form). Once a student is absent for 5 classes, excused or not, the teacher makes a phone call home to speak with the parent. After 10 absences, it becomes and administrative problem. If I suspect a student is skipping, I can talk to an administrator and they, along with the guidance counselors, will deal with the issue and let me know what happens.
     
  13. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Sep 13, 2010

    It's the same in my school. I take attendance and teach whoever is in the room. If a student comes to the room late, I continue teaching and include them in the instruction. I don't back up and start over for them, though. They can either see me or another student after class to find out what they missed (if anything).

    I've had instances of kids not coming to my class as well because they were doing something for another teacher, visiting with the counselor or returning (or checking out) a library book. If the teacher from the previous class has not come to let me know where Johnny is or why he might be late for my class and I know he was in the building earlier, then I am certainly going to ask his classmates if they know where he is or what he is doing because - for the moment - we have a student that is unaccounted for. Our homeroom groups stay together for all of their content classes, so the classmates usually know where Johnny went. If he was asked to do something by a teacher or staff member, I agree it is no harm, no foul. If he is hiding out in the bathroom, that is a different matter entirely.

    You're right that I was concerned about why my students were absent. I don't envy those who are apparently too busy to be concerned when a student is absent from their class. Both students were at school the day before and both of them played basketball later that evening. Another student had his collarbone broken during a basketball game and was absent the next day because of the pain. I was concerned something like that may have happened to these students as well or maybe they had gotten sick after the game. So I asked the class if anyone knew what had happened to them.

    If the students had come to school 30 minutes later, they would have missed my test completely and been facing a possible "0" on one of their test grades. I would hate to see their final grade drop because they made a poor choice. IF they had missed the test and the P excused their tardiness, I may respectfully disagree because I feel it sends the wrong message to the kids and their parents (who allowed their kids to attend the movie). However, I would also respect the fact that the final decision is his/hers to make and would have allowed the students to take the test on Monday with no penalty.
     
  14. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Sep 13, 2010

    What shocks me is that it is up to the teachers to accept notes and reasoning for being absent. It's completely an office thing in my school. By our School Policy as long as students have a note it's excused. Students are entitled to make-up work unless they are caught cutting by an Administrator or a teacher catches them and they are written up. I'm not familiar with State law in other states, but I'm pretty sure it's up to the parents to excuse their students from school. We have no choice, but to accept the tardies until they become excessive. You as a teacher have absolutely no right to deny an excuse. Zip, Nada, Zero. It's a terrible idea to let what your students tell you regarding other students affect how you deal with an academic problem. You may not agree with the parent's choice to allow the kids to go to the game. Tough. You're not they're parent.
     
  15. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Sep 13, 2010

    I'm reading this as I'm taking a quasi Truancy day to track down students who have logged into my school but haven't turned in a bit of work. This is my equivalent to tracking down the kids who are cutting my class or who just won't hand in assignments. It takes away from my time working with the students who are actively participating in my course, but my goal is to help everyone to graduate, which sometimes involves dragging them kicking and screaming through 12th Grade Language Arts.
     
  16. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    I can only assume you either didn't read my previous posts closely or are misreading them somehow.

    All notes regarding tardies and absences are taken to our office as well and it is the P who decides if an absence will be considered "excused" or "unexcused". I never denied their excuse for being tardy. I also did allow them to take the test and, in all honesty, I allowed both students to stay in my class after the bell rang (with permission from their next teacher) so they could finish the test (even though I didn't feel their excuse was acceptable).

    I never complained about them going to the game. I expected them to go to the game since they are on the team. I do disagree with the parents letting them attend a movie at midnight (after playing in the game) and coming home at 2:30am on a school night, but it is their right to make that decision. The question then becomes how these parents would have reacted if their kids had missed the test entirely and not been allowed to make it up or erase the "0" they would have gotten if the absence had been unexcused.

    I told the students a movie was an not an acceptable reason for missing a test because (a) it was a poor choice that could have seriously affected their grade and (b) it was disrespectful to me for them to consider a movie more important than a math test.

    Middle school students are just beginning to explore and establish their own identity. I don't feel it is outside my authority to offer advice and suggestions to them along the way. In fact, I consider it an obligation to offer guidance when I can. Of course they will make mistakes along the way, that is part of the learning process. My goal is to help them avoid as many unnecessary mistakes as possible.

    I also don't consider it outside my authority to respectfully disagree with a decision my boss makes. Disagreement is not the same as insubordination. I will comply with a decision, even if I disagree with it. I know some bosses feel their decisions should never be questioned, but I cannot offer blind obedience when I've had a couple of bosses that, frankly, made poor decisions and abused their position of authority. If you approached me at school in the same tone and manner you are using now, I suppose it is likely I would end up with a reprimand in my folder.

    I would respect your position of authority as my boss (and would comply with whatever decision you made), but I also expect that same level of respect for my authority within my classroom and I do feel I have the right to comment on a student's choice when that choice can affect their academic performance in my class.
     
  17. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Sep 13, 2010

    I do respect my teacher's authorities. However, it is up to my discretion, not a teachers, whether or not an absence is acceptable or not. It's not the teacher's its the Administrators. It is my sole responsibility, not my teachers to determine if absences are excused. Unless told otherwise, students are allowed to make-up work. Also, please do not get into the habit of asking students the reason why other students are absent. I apologize for the tone, but I would be furious if I was your boss. It's okay to question your boss' decisions, in private, in his office By taking an action, like this it's unacceptable. You're a first year teacher, focusing on teaching, not being an admin.
     
  18. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Sep 13, 2010

    One a side note, I had the opposite problem a few times. Random students would show up in my class instead of the class they were supposed to be in! While I take that as a compliment, those students did have someplace else they were supposed to be...
     
  19. Cerek

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    Sep 13, 2010

    This occurred during my ST last year. My CT was in the classroom and did not raise an objection to my comment. It also was never mentioned by the P.

    I did allow the students to complete the test, even giving them extra time that I really didn't feel they deserved. If it had just been homework they missed, I really wouldn't have cared nearly as much and would have allowed them to make that up without mentioning the reason they were tardy. It IS the P's discretion to determine if an absence is excused or not. If the P said it was excused and told me I had to let them take the test on Monday when they were better prepared and had more time, I would very likely disagree with the decision (in his office), but would still comply with the decision.

    The problem is we are looking at the same situation from two different perspectives. My comment about a midnight movie not being an acceptable excuse for missing a test is directed at the choice the student made, but has no bearing at all on whether the absence would be considered excused by the P. I am just telling the student I personally disagree with the choice they made and feel that decision was disrespectful to me as their teacher.

    You're perspective seems to be I am telling them their absence should not have been "excused" by the P. That isn't what I was saying, but I can see how you would interpret it that way. There was no decision to be made in this particular case, since it was a tardy instead of an absence. But if it had been an absence, I would not have said "Well, if it were up to ME, your absence would be unexcused". I agree that would undermine the P's authority and I would not give the students any reason to question his/her authority.

    If you came to me furious over my comment, we are probably going to have a brief, but intense discussion of the matter. I will respect your authority and decision, but I am also going to assert my reasoning for the comment and request the same respect for my authority in the classroom. By excusing the absence, you are basically telling the student it's alright to blow off my test and go see a movie. I would have a difficult time accepting that without voicing my disagreement of the decision and the message it sends.
     
  20. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    I don't agree with the parent's reasoning. However, legally there is very little I can do. If a parent excuses the absence, whether they lie about the reason or not, I am obliged to excuse it. I may not like it, but I have to do it. If a student has more than 10 absences a term, however, then I take other action. However, one movie or two days off because of a family vacation, I am obliged to excuse. By not allowing to make work up for an absence your boss deems excusable, you are in short, commiting insubordination. I wouldn't write you up for it. However, we would have a discussion as to why you did so. I'm not disagreeing that what they did was wrong. I just don't want you to get in trouble with your boss for something so small. Honestly, the reasons for absences isn't your problem, its the administration. You are there to teach, not deem whether absences are excused or not.
     
  21. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 13, 2010

    I'm not even sure how the logistics would work, Brendan.

    Our kids have homeroom followed by a 9 period day. The absent note is handed in to the general office. I don't ever get to see the notes, either as homeroom or classroom teacher.

    Sure, kids talk and we frequently know what they're saying. But those of us who have been in the classroom a while have also seen cases where the kids were wrong; where the story they heard was rumor. So, no, contrary to rumor, Sue wasn't at the mall. She was at an Al Anon meeting or someplace that's not my business or the business of anyone else. It's kind of hard to be the cool kid when your dad is an alcoholic, or when you're one yourself. And I'm perfectly OK with letting kids maintain whatever pretenses are necessary for them to function among their peers without losing face.

    Sometimes we're not at liberty to know what's going on in a kids' life-- the administration does. And I"m perfectly content with that. If and when I need to know, I'll get a memo. Until that time, it's none of my business.

    Right now I have a kid who has colitis, and needs to go to the bathoom immediately. She's a 16 year old girl. I'm not going by the kids' comments as to why she's not in class. The memo I got explains why. If there's another kid with a similar condition, and I'm not aware of it, I'll let administration handle the "why's." Again, the kid is going through enough; she doesn't need me (or her male teachers) to know why she's missing from class.
    Again, I'm very happy to be where I am.
     
  22. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Sep 13, 2010

    That gives me a better understanding of where you're coming from. I find it ridiculous that you cannot say "No, I'm sorry, but I can't excuse Tommy's absence today just because he wanted to be the first one to see the new movie this week and decided to stay out until 2:30am this morning. You have every right to let him go see the movie whenever he wants, but the school has the same right to still expect him to follow the regular schedule the next day."

    Of course, if you did not excuse the absence, the parent is probably just going to lie about the reason or call the superintendent to explain how unreasonable you are being for not altering the school's schedule around Tommy's midnight movie trip.

    Family vacations are different matter. I don't think a parent should plan a vacation during school days, but I understand it happens and there is nothing the kid can do about it.

    Anyway, I appreciate the advice you are giving and the predicament you face as the administrator. I've said repeatedly that I would allow the student to make up any homework and would even have allowed them to take the test on the next school day if the P had told me to. I might disagree with the message that sends, but as we agreed, that is a situation to be discussed privately in the P's office and, in the end, the final decision IS his/hers to make.
     
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