Monday, November 2, 2009

Missing Class?

By Casey Tolfree

Hey guys, have any of you had to miss a class for any reason?

I e-mailed my teacher to ask if it would be okay for me to miss class next week because I have to cover an event for the paper I work for and she totally flipped out on me. She told me that my priorities were wrong. Shouldn't work be a top priority? It's what allows me to go to class.

I don't know but it was completely strange and infuriating. She basically said my job was unimportant and made me justify my reason for missing class and explain why it was important.

I thought as a grad student we were treated like adults? Why should I even have to explain to my professor why I need to miss class. If I'm an adult I shouldn't need to justify my actions, should I?

Has this happened to any of you because I was so confused and annoyed this morning by her.


  1. I have a class with the co-director of our MFA program and he was waaaaaay, totally supportive of me missing class when I had a family emergency. He was actually surprised I showed up when I did and only missed one class. So I'm extremely impressed with the level of support I've gotten in that area.

    This class was not my workshop though. I moved mountains to be sure I never missed workshop. So I can understand her flipout if it was workshop since workshop is the major reason for being in the program. If the class is workshop, is it possible to have someone else cover the story just this once?

    I think you did great by offering an explanation for why you intended to miss class. It was also good of you to give advance notice. I think you acted responsibly in this situation.

  2. I think this issue exemplifies why some of us opted to apply to fully funded programs and only attend such a program. I did not want work to get in the way of my writing, and I knew if I held down any kind of "normal" job while I was a grad student, it would inevitably cause me headaches. I agree with JT that you did everything you needed to in order to avoid minimal conflict, but obviously your program sees things differently...if it is workshop, I'd try and avoid missing it. I mean, you're there to learn and grow as a writer right?

  3. I haven't had any complaints or had anyone ask me to explain myself/justify the reason for my absence. I've had three absences this semester: two for illness, as I caught a really strange fluey thing in September.

    The third absence was much less "excusable"--I had to take my boyfriend to the eye doctor. Since he had a terrible infection (seriously, it took a month of eyedrops to kill this conjunctivitis!) and couldn't open his eye, I was worried he'd get in a wreck if he tried to drive over himself.

    This is a situation where I thought--I'm an adult, and Derrick is more important than class. I made the decision on my own, and my professor had no problems with that.

    I think you're right. You are an adult--work is what enables you to even be in this program, and every once in a while there might be a conflict. So long as this doesn't happen on a weekly basis, you are still turning in your work, and you still contribute when you are physically IN class, I don't see why your professor should have any complaints.

  4. Well regardless of whether my program was full-funded or not I'd still need a full-time job - I had a car, a cellphone, rent... lol.

    It's not a workshop class. And as I explained to my teacher so you have a pretty idea of it. I cover sports. We are in the post-season - I have 20 games I have to cover (give or take) in the next 21 days. To not cover only two of them because I have class seems to me silly and unprofessional. It's the only conflict all semester.

    To answer Tory - yes we're in the program to get better but I already work for a newspaper lol so wouldn't it be irresponsible to just be like sorry I have class when it's the busiest time of the season? I've worked there for two years and this is my favorite part - traveling traveling traveling :)

    Oh and she nicely (haha) informed me that if I miss another class that's grounds for failure. Nice right? Let's hope it doesn't snow.

  5. Honestly, I get annoyed when my classmates miss class. Yes, we are adults, but our classes are not huge and it makes a difference in most discussions when people aren't present. I make class a priority, at the expense of free time, sleep and yes, money. I understand needing to work. My program is designed to allow people to work, most do and at the moment I have a 40-hour a week gig. So it does bother me when I feel like my classmates aren't giving me the effort I give them.

    That being said, you are allowed to make your own decisions and your professor should respect that. She should have established an absence policy at the beginning of the semester, so you know how many classes you are allowed to miss and how absences will impact your grade right out front.

  6. I agree with margosita on both of her points. When classes only meet once a week, missing one class is missing a not-insignificant percentage of the entire semester. As adults, we all have to (get to) choose our priorities; in grad school, at least in my experience, it is expected that school IS our top priority, barring emergencies, of course.

    I also agree that your professor definitely should have articulated her policy on absences at the beginning of the class!

  7. yeah, can't believe your prof didn't have an absence policy if they were gonna get so picky about it!

    but i will say, i was really annoyed when one of my workshop mates wanted to save on her airfare so she didn't show up for our first workshop (i was low-res) yeah. she didn't make the workshop leader a fan at all :)

  8. Hi Casey,

    I really see where youlre coming from. There was a reading scheduled in my university recently (MA CW in Manchester, England) and I coulnd't attend because I work Thursdays and Fridays, but the readings aren't compulsory, so that was a shame, but no problem. On the Monday, though one of our teachers announced 'you guys know there's a special workshop before the reading, right? And you must attend!' We were not impressed - three day's notice! And I was really worried - I have to work - I have rent AND a mortgage to cover, plus living expenses - and my job (video editor with a TV station) isn't something I can get out of, or ask somebody else to cover. I'm contracted to do the the work and that's that. So I spoke to my course coordinator who said not to worry about it at all, he understood that we all work under financial pressure and that things rarely work out perfectly. So, basically, I love him! But they are very understanding on my course - we're all adults, and we need to cover our bills if we're to stay living here and stay in the course at all. It's not people who miss class that annoy me, but people who turn up not having done the reading - what's the point??

    Good luck with the course and the job!


  9. Maybe you could talk with your professor in person and ask her if there is anything you can do to make up for missing the class. It would convey that you are making the class a high priority and are attempting to find a way to work it out. Even if she says no, she may be less miffed.

  10. I had to fly back to Texas for my grandma's funeral this semester. I missed my lit course and my craft class. Both Kathryn Harrison and Louise DeSalvo were very considerate of my situation. I didn't have to miss Kathryn's class, but she still supported me. I did have to miss Louise's class--and she completely understood. She also said she understood if I needed to miss the following class. And she said I could have an extra week on my craft assignment if I needed it.

  11. You had every right to miss class, and you were responsible about it -- you told her in advance, and we are graduate students -- you have more responsibilities than just school. You did the right thing. It would be nice if we only had to do school, but that's not really the reality -- and it's not the reality even when we become writers, either, as real life intereferes sometimes. You did your best, your request was reasonable, and she should have been more responsive. I'd write about it on her eval at the end of the semester. She needs a good dose of reality herself.


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