If I had to choose the most misguided practice employed in U.S. schools, it would be that of requiring teachers to provide â€œmake-up workâ€ for students who miss a scheduled lesson.
Sometimes the absence is owing to illness, but often the absence is the result of a dental appointment, or an away game. Everyone pretends that such an assignment is the equivalent of having attended the class meeting. It isnâ€™t.
In some situations, the absent student is simply given an assignment with brief written directions and page numbers. In others, the teacher is required to find time to give the student a boiled-down version of the missed lesson. In the first situation, the student is left to struggle with an imperfectly understood assignment. In the second, the teacher is robbed of time needed for other things in order to hurry through material that required 50 minutes the first time.
I object to make-up work, not only because it imposes on the teacher, but because it is an empty gesture that does nothing to make up for the learning opportunity missed by the student. Nothing that the teacher can convey to the student in a 10-minute â€œmake-upâ€ session can be the equivalent of a missed classroom presentation.
Teaching is performance art. No two lessons are exactly the same. Some will be more effective than others, but to obtain the pedagogical value of class discussion, the student must be present.
I was fortunate enough to teach for six years in a private school whose make-up policy was
The student who misses the lesson misses the homework.
I think thatâ€™s an excellent make-up policy.
Used as it should be, the assignment of homework is an integral part of a classroom lesson. It is the culmination of everything that has been presented by the teacher and discussed by the class. It is the studentâ€™s opportunity to practice the content of the lesson in solitude. Done correctly, the completed assignment indicates that the student has understood that dayâ€™s lesson. Done incorrectly, the assignment alerts the teacher to the need for further teaching.
Yes, students who must miss numerous class days may need outside help. Thereâ€™s a resource for that: paid tutors.