A range of factors can cause students not to attend school, including struggles with the class subject or conflicts with other students. However, skipping class affects not only the students but their teachers as well. Teachers want to take action to prevent absences.
“In general, (skipping class) makes me sad because I think that education is a powerful tool, and when a student misses class, for whatever reason, it’s an obstacle for them to do well,” said Michael Teasley, a Math 1 teacher at BHS. “The general feeling is like, ‘Oh, I really wish they were in class.’ That could range from them being out sick to them being on campus, but just not in class.”
This sentiment is shared by other teachers, such as Sydney Aardal, an BHS AP Biology teacher. “If I don’t see them that day, it’s a bummer,” she said. “I mean, if a student isn’t in, I can’t teach them.” Specifically with her biology classes, Aardal said that students are not asked to do much work at home. “So they’re missing out on some valuable time learning and doing biology (in class),” she said.
However, teachers also recognize that there are many factors that play into a student’s decision to skip, among these: insecurity with the class subject. “I think the number one reason why students choose not to come to my class specifically is because they are really struggling with math, foundationally,” said Teasley. “And then ‘what is the point of me going to class, having no idea what’s going on, and feeling stupid because I can’t recognize what we’re doing for work?’”
Aardal holds a similar view. “Math and science can be something that students have experienced bad times with in the past,” she said. “So I can see how that could be a barrier for students, but I do think that once they’ve gotten to class, I really hope that students can feel like they belong here.”
Moreover, many teachers empathize with students who skip. “There’s so many people who skip the class because they don’t feel safe, or they don’t feel ready to participate in the class, where they don’t feel comfortable with their peers,” said Nick Pleskac, an IB Biology teacher at BHS. “That’s different than skipping class because you feel like you have the privilege of prioritizing other things than the class itself.”
As for difficulties with comprehending the material: “It’s super, uber frustrating when you don’t feel like there are enough resources for you to feel competent in math,” said Teasley. But at the same time, he believes that students can overcome this frustration. “It is not an impossible feat to see where you need to be with math and to get there,” he said. He added that teachers will always be open to help a student achieve their goals. “I know that even though there’s going to be extra hard work to be put in, I’ll put in just as much work as you do. That’s why I try to make myself and my resources available,” he said.
As such, with preventing the skipping of classes, creating a welcoming environment in which students feel comfortable with teachers is critically important.
“I think just being able to check in with students … and saying, ‘Hey, if you’re not in class, what are you up to?’ (is important),” said Aardal. “I also think that there’s a lot to be done for teachers about making sure that students feel like they matter in that classroom and are important to the community of that classroom.” She added that it’s a group effort of the school, teacher, and student to create this healthy environment. “It’s a bit of the school making sure that students know that they’re going to be held accountable to be in that class,” she said, “And it’s also on the teachers to make sure that once the student gets there, they are feeling that sense of belonging.”
Additionally, teachers believe that creating a welcoming environment leads to more communication, which they say is a key component of addressing skipping class.
“I think most students who skip a class and don’t tell their teacher is because they don’t have a very good line of communication with their teachers,” said Pleskac.
To fix this, involvement is required on both the part of the educator and the pupil. “It’s about teachers caring about students’ lives outside of class,” Pleskac said, “But it’s also about students being willing to show when they’re struggling to their teacher, and asking for help about how to solve the problems together.”