Have I Missed Anything?

I love my students and everything, but there is one question that they tend to ask that invariably annoys me.

“I haven’t been in class since the semester started,” a student tells me. “Have I missed anything?”

Oh no, not at all. These five lectures we have had since classes started? We just twiddled our thumbs in complete silence. That’s what I get paid for, you know. For not communicating anything of importance to the students over the course of 5 class meetings. It’s actually so rare that I manage to contribute anything of value to the classes I teach that you should feel free not to show up for as long as you wish.

Couldn’t the question just be worded in a less annoying way? Like, for example, “Could you tell me what I missed?”

Or, better yet, “What can I do to catch up?”

Or, best of all, “What can I do to catch up with all the extremely important, fascinating and crucial material that you have been delivering with a great passion and profound knowledge of the subject matter during every class meeting and that I had the horrible bad luck of missing?”

9 thoughts on “Have I Missed Anything?”

  1. I asked that question when I missed a few classes on Classical Chinese Literature. I said, “Was there anything important discussed today in class, Sir?” and the professor said, “Now, don’t tell me you don’t realize it’s all important!” So I slunk out of his office, borrowed notes from my friend, and read the assigned chapters. I was officially humbled enough to never ask that again.

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  2. I once had to write lines as a punishment for talking in my history class (I was about 12 at the time). The line, which had to written out 103 times (the crime was considered too severe for a mere 100 lines to suffice) was: “Pray forgive me oh most wonderous sir for daring to open my lowly mouth during your fascinating and enlightening lesson”

    I’ve never forgotten it!

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  3. and I often wish I could give my students lines, or copying pages out of the text book, or SOMETHING to make them realise how annoying it is when they say ‘did I miss anything?’ or ‘what did you just say about the homework?’

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  4. The only time I encountered the “Did I miss anything important” question, I answered nonchalantly with “Depends on your point of view”, and kept walking. The student showed up during office hours, apologised, and said he’d gotten notes from friends and the online course resource.

    That was quite unprecedented, actually: a student showing up just to apologise and tell me he’s done the reading. It hasn’t been repeated since. I suspect he was a rare gem like Nominatissima here.

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  5. Just answer “Yes.” After all, it is a yes / no question! Then the student has to ask “What did I miss?” Then you say, “You missed the content of the first 5 lectures, and the class discussions.”

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  6. Didn’t you post recently that you spent a class telling your students who Jews are? And that China is the most populous country in the world (by raw numbers, not population density).

    If I were your student, I would likely tell a fellow student that they didn’t miss anything – after all, if these things are beyond their current knowledge, then they won’t likely survive the class (and university) anyway.

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