Haven’t we all entertained that inquiry from an absent student, “Did I miss anything important?” The question is poorly phrased, but I recognize that it’s usually well-intentioned. The student is concerned about what he or she missed. My concern is about those continued absences and how to allow the student to make up for a missed class. The first day of class I read a Tom Wayman poem (www.loc.gov/poetry/180/013.html) that gets at the phrasing of the question and what the student misses by being absent.
As a college student, I was rarely the first to raise my hand or respond to a question posed during class. I was shy by nature and always felt like I had little to offer. There were times, however, that I would interject simply to break the long silence after the instructor asked a question. In those cases, the silence was either too uncomfortable to bear or I figured that my response would be no worse than anyone else’s. There was also the threat of a pop quiz or some other academic challenge looming for the unresponsive class, which included students who obviously either did not know the content or had not read the assignment. I believe this is an experience all college students have faced at one time or another.