I have been absent--
Did I miss anything that was
Can you find a way
to ask without implying
my class wastes your time?
I am off to bed.
In response to your question,
the answer is "yes."
Of course, sometimes I tell these offenders that Beyonce performed for our class. Or that we all took naps. And when the kid gives me the "C'mon, tell me what really happened" face I tell them the truth: I taught my guts out and they can get notes from another kid and hope another person can explain to them what they've missed.
Sometimes students expect a private tutoring session. Am I a bad teacher for refusing to do that? For refusing to try to encapsulate what took me 55 minutes of extraordinary effort to teach? To recreate for an audience of one what I orchestrated the day before for an audience of 159 in five classes?
I obviously don't think so. It wasn't the student's fault she was sick, but those sorts of losses are not the kind we can just restore with five minutes and a pat on the head. The losses are real. The book can tell the kids the basics. The book cannot recreate our conversation, our inquiries, our interactions. The book does not crack dumb jokes or pose useful analogies to help kids make connections the way I do. The book cannot explain what it means the way I do in a class. Insofar as explaining after school something that a student didn't understand in class, that's fine with me, and I am eager to do so--unless the said kid was busy not paying attention.
Here's another teacher who was moved to write a poem:
Did I Miss Anything?
Tom WaymanNothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours
Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 percent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 percent
Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose
Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?
Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human experience
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
but it was one place
And you weren’t here
From Did I Miss Anything? Selected Poems 1973-1993, 1993Copyright 1993 Tom Wayman.
All rights reserved.