Attendance is often a dicey subject. A number of questions pertaining to school attendance often crop up: Do students who skip class get failing grades, and if so, is there a direct correlation between skipping class and doing poorly academically? How should teachers respond to poor class attendance? Should they resort to punishment or try to encourage the student to attend school more regularly in order to bring grades up? This paper will address these questions respectively by defining attendance as a concept, outlining the importance of attendance, and discussing the pros and cons of attendance policies.
First of all, what is attendance? Attendance can be defined as “the act of being present at a place” according to Merriam-Webster dictionary. Attendance can also be understood to mean “a record of how often a person goes to class, meetings, etc.” By this understanding, I would push this line further by stating that attendance is staying active in class, asking pertinent questions, engaging with the teacher and with other students, and attempting to work on questions and find answers to subjects brought up in class. However, I would argue that being active is much more than that. It is also a question of effort and achievement, of dedication and hard work, and especially of time and energy. Being present in a classroom is only the beginning. The real work has begun once the student has begun concentrating, focusing on tasks such as homework and projects, asking questions when help is needed, and helping other students.
Second of all, why is attendance so important? I attendance is needed to improve knowledge because it improves students’ skills, encourages them to speak up in class, actively listen to the teacher, promotes a good work ethic and helps students become more interactive. The importance of attending school regularly and with effort has been underscored by a number of pedagogical experts who strongly believe that attendance pushes students to acquire “soft skills” like accountability and self-motivation (Kent). By this way of thinking, the more they go to school, the more they will want to strengthen their skills and knowledge basis and become strong workers later on in life. In this respect, working hard and developing a strong work ethic early on in one’s life can help the student maintain good grades and begin to actively enjoy the process of learning, of working hard and in earnest, and of seeing results such as good job performances and happy teachers/clients/customers, etc.
Thirdly, what are attendance policies and why are they considered important in elementary as well as high schools, even in universities? Many teachers adopt strict policies that students see as unnecessarily severe but that certain teachers consider important. Matt Reed, a teacher, lists a number of reasons why attendance is mandatory. It is essential to contributing to sound group work and will help ingrain a sense of timeliness and punctuality that will serve students later on in life as they find jobs. As such, teachers need to be exacting and cannot be lenient because they would do their students a disservice. It is better to impose rules and regulations than to relax those rules early on. That being said, Reed has certain issues with attendance policies. Most importantly, providing students with a sound education is to some extent a luxury that they should not feel entitled to. For instance, entitled students are students who want to go to California for a vacation and miss classes. Should they push themselves a bit and show up for class? Are teachers becoming too lenient in this respect? I would argue that there has to a carefully crafted balance between lax and strict regulations. Students need to feel encouraged and stimulated to learn, but they must also be pushed to work hard and to earn good grades in the process.
Attendance policies change depending on class size. In large classrooms, packed with 200 or more students, it is nearly impossible to take attendance regularly. Teachers who do so end up losing precious time by going through attendance lists. Students often get bored and fidgety if teachers spend too much time (ten minutes or more) on going through attendance. As such, attendance policies for big classes reward the students who do attend and punish those who do not bother to come to class. By comparison, attendance policies are important for smaller classes for courses such as English, French or German. In these classes, conversations, one-on-one meetings and small group projects are often mandatory. As such, it is imperative for students to attend class regularly, or else the entire team will suffer consequentially. Ideally, I would say that a balance would help students in any regard: too lax policies would encourage students to never show up to class. Too strict policies, on the other hand, force teachers to spend time on attendance list and to divert attention away from the coursework at hand. I would suggest that taking attendance once every two classes would be a good way for teachers to maintain such a balance.
In conclusion, attendance is a controversial subject that is sparking considerable debate among teachers and pedagogical experts. This paper has defined the concept of attendance before drawing up a list of pros and cons about taking attendance. This paper has noted that students often need to be encouraged to concentrate, develop a strong work ethic and stay engaged with the teacher and his/her peers in order to do well academically, helping the student on to do well later on in life. In large classes, attendance policies are not that advantageous as they make teachers lose a lot of time. By comparison, smaller class sizes benefit as a whole from regular attendance policies. Scholars have found a direct correlation between good grades and work opportunities. It is time to help our students learn better and more efficiently, to discover the joys of learning, and to attend classes willingly. Only time will tell if this goal will be achieved.