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Monday, November 8, 2010

The Worst Question to Ask a Professor!

In all the years I have been teaching in higher education, there is one question that Professors never want to be asked.  Students who miss a class pose the question "Did I miss anything important?"

The answer is yes.  You missed something important.

If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed. If you are lucky, the Professor posts PowerPoint presentations and/or class notes on a class website.  However, many Professors do not do this for a variety of reasons.  Here are some steps to follow if you must miss a class.

First, contact the Professor as soon as you can to let her/him that you cannot be in class.  Be sure to read the syllabus.  Professors will usually inform students of the missed class policy.  For example, you might discover that you cannot individually turn in work that is completed in groups during a class period.  You might find that you must contact a Professor within 24 hours of missing an exam or you cannot take a make-up exam.  The syllabus also might state how many absences you can have before it negatively impacts your grade -- if you miss three classes, your final grade will be lowered one letter grade.

Second, be sure to have the names and contact information of at least three students in your class.  These students can provide you class notes and important announcements.  Do not ask the Professor for her/his notes.  It is very rare for a Professor to copy notes for students and some do not use lecture notes!

Third, review the notes and ask for clarification from the student(s) who provided you the notes.  If you are still uncertain, contact the Professor.  You should let the Professor know that you have reviewed the class notes from another student (or two or three!), but you still had a few questions.  The Professor will be most impressed by your initiative!

Again, be sure to read the syllabus about attendance policies.  You certainly don't want to end the term with a lower grade because you did not understand the Professor's attendance policies!  You might consider your situation unique.  But, I can assure you that your Professor has probably encountered a student with a similar situation previously.  Therefore, it is unlikely that a Professor will bend in their attendance policies.  Professors develop such policies to make sure that all students are treated fairly.