I bring this up because @fortunafiasco noted this week on Twitter that requiring doctor’s notes for illnesses is inherently classist: it presumes access to medical care. We can’t presume that. The most desperate students often have the least access — whether financially or logistically — to the professionals whose notes would “excuse” them.
I don’t require doctor’s notes for absences and refuse them when students proffer them. I don’t do it not because it would be classist or whatever but because I operate from the position of trust and respect. If a student wasn’t in class, even if it’s for three weeks, I proceed from the assumption that there was an important and serious reason I don’t need to know about.
I don’t care about the power struggles of “prove to me that I’m so important that you wouldn’t miss my class without a good reason.” All I care is the learning. My first questions after an absence of any duration are, “what are we going to do to get you caught up? How can I help? What resources do we have to make it happen?”
Similarly, if the students need to leave class early or come in late – even if it’s every class during the semester, I assume there is a good reason and don’t bicker about it. The same goes for texting in class. If they do it, it must be something very important.
And I haven’t had anybody abuse my trust ever. We all are human, we all have shit happening. If I don’t proceed from the assumption that everybody is an evildoer out to demonstrate how insignificant I am.
My absence policy is that I always have very high participation percentages, and if you are away for a while, then participate like crazy when you come back and it will make up for the lost time. I take attendance every class but it’s not punitive. It helps me to remember faces and names faster and keep them fresh.
In short, teachers, get your sense of self-worth from other places than the classroom. It’s not the students’ job to make you feel valued. It’s great if you do but they can’t be the main source.