I’d like to think that it’s absolutely DEVASTATING for my students to miss a day of my class. I mean, how could they stand not being there for my jokes, random musings, and crazy faces?
So when a student misses many school days, I really notice. I know I’m not alone, since most teachers who really connect with their students notice absences. And for me, it’s obviously not about losing ADA or having to make time to catch them up, it’s the fact that they’re missing out on all of the group and class interaction that makes learning so much FUN! Sure, they can hunker down, read the text, write the summary, and turn it in at home. But absent is the rich conversation that went with that assignment. It’s like going through a whole meal without any seasoning or condiments!
My current situation
I have such a student who has missed quite a bit of school. He was absent about two months at the end of last year, and so far he’s only made it to the first three days of school this year. It really breaks my heart, because I know that he can’t help it. He’s ill with something that doctors can’t even diagnose, and I’ll bet he really misses school.
So what can I do for him? This school year I noticed right away that he was back to being absent a lot, and it was really gnawing at me. It’s usually not that difficult for students to keep up when they’re absent. My students know that they can log into Jupitergrades and look up what we did that day. I include assignment or lesson names, plus links to any documents. In theory, he could’ve taken the initiative to do just that and stay in the game.
However, we’ve done more interactive and collaborative work this year than ever before, so how can he make THAT up? Remember how much my students struggled with irony? Can you imagine trying to learn that by yourself? My gut was telling me that it just wasn’t fair that this illness was keeping him home, and he was missing out on my lessons.
After just a second of mental planning, I decided to modify all of my assignments that he’d missed so that he could do them at home. I also created an introductory module in JunoEd (which is part of the Jupitergrades LMS) that included the videos I showed in class, and the quiz I used in the subsequent Kahoot. In Jupitergrades I was able to create separate independent study assignments that only the he could see! Finally, I went ahead and excused the other assignments that he missed in class, and gave him something equally rigorous and thorough so that he could keep up.
This isn’t just about making up assignments – it’s about him still learning the concepts and mastering the standards. Unless I do something for him, he may completely miss that, and will be expected to know it down the line. It may be inconvenient for me to create this work and track what he completes, but in my mind it’s worth it. This isn’t some family vacation that’s causing him to miss school, it’s a REAL health problem!
Therefore I’ve also discussed with him the possibility of having him FaceTime with me during class. This way he could “be there” for my instruction, and maybe even join in on some student conversations. I think we’re going to give it a shot next week!
It took me a whole two hours to create all of this for him. It’s a lot of work, but I feel really good about doing this for him. He promised he would make up all of the work; I just HOPE he’ll keep that promise so that it wouldn’t have been a waste of time!
I also hope they find out how to help him. I really miss his happy face!