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Should I require students to text me when they’re absent?

 One way I tried to increase attendance and accountability this year was to require students to text me when they were late or absent.

I wasn’t always successful. Some students didn’t text me. When they didn’t, I followed up to let them know the importance of following through with commitments.

My end-of-course evaluation was interesting on this topic. I asked, “Should students have to text me when they’re absent or late?” The results were mixed. Here are some of my students’ responses:

  • “No, because sometimes students miss school because they are too busy even to text.”
  • “Yes, it’s easy for them to let you know.”
  • “Yes, but it’s kind of weird because you’re the first teacher asking this of us.”
  • “No. In college, professors are not going to care if we’re absent. I think we should just check in with you the next day.”
  • “No. They are absent for a reason, but you don’t exactly need to know at the moment.”
  • “Yes, I think they should, just so you can know who’s going to be in class and also just so the student knows what’s happening in class.”
  • “No, I was late a lot, and it was a hassle.”

Looking at this data, which was a bit all over the place, I realize that I need to ask myself some questions before deciding how to proceed.

  1. Why this policy? Is it to increase attendance? or to teach accountability? or because I like order and don’t like surprises? or because I want the students to find me and the class important?
  2. What’s the enforcement of this policy, and is it worth it? If students don’t text me, what happens? A reminder? or another consequence?

As a teacher, you never want to do something unless it’s critically important for the success of students or it’s fundamentally crucial to your values.

In my gut, I know that this is important. If not all of my students can attend class on time, they can at least acknowledge where they’re supposed to be. By texting me, my students demonstrate that they’re missing something important. They see me. In turn, I can text them back with the basics of what they missed. I see them. As a result, there is a mutual respect for learning and for each other.

What do you think about all this? 

2 comments

  1. John at TestSoup

    I think it’s an important step in teaching accountability.

    You can (and will) lose a job for repeatedly being late or no-showing. These days, it’s easier than ever before to let your boss or co-workers know. And it goes a long way when you actually do.

    It may be a hassle, but finding a new job because you were too lazy to text is a bigger hassle.

  2. Mark Isero

    You’re right on the mark, John. Finding a new job is definitely a bigger hassle! The more I think about this, the more my gut says my policy is correct. It’s important that my students value their education, and part of valuing it is acknowledging when you’ve messed up.

Please share your brilliant insights!