At first I didn't believe it. Although I had an elegant and parsimonious explanation for the observed phenomenon, it was too pat, too unlikely. And it required an unusual amount of obtuseness on the part of my student. A huge amount of obtuseness. This was something I had to check out.
It all began on a Tuesday. Thanks to various holidays, state requirements, staff development days, and the wisdom of our administrative managers, a Tuesday was the first day of spring semester classes. As usual at the beginning of a new term, I called roll during the first several days. For one thing, I want to learn names; for another, I need to deal with no-shows and walks-ins.
Student AC was present on that first Tuesday when I took roll for our early morning algebra class, a five-unit class that met for an hour every day of the school week, but there was no answer from her on the second day. Fine. It's best for students to figure out early that a class does not suit them. However, she was back on Thursday. Okay, maybe she's vacillating. She had not left me an e-mail or voice message about her absence on Wednesday, but it often takes a while before students get serious about checking in when they miss class.
She was missing again on Friday, missing Quiz 1. Again, no message. That is, she did not send me any messages about her absences. AC did, however, send me an e-mail that weekend about her prerequisites for the algebra class, so she was still exhibiting signs of life:
No mention about the absences, but at least she was following through on documenting that she satisfied the prerequisites for beginning algebra. Funny, though, that she was promising to bring her transcript on Tuesday. Why not Monday? Well, I had plenty of other things to worry about.
This is your new student AC.I got the transcript which you asked on Tu,&Th for class.On Th i was loking for you after class we had but I coulldn't find you.I wanna tell you that i will show it to you on Tu just don't drap me from class.i wanna take this class.Thank you
AC was missing on Monday. Sure enough, she showed up on Tuesday with her transcript, I checked off that her prerequisite was satisfied. And she got to take Quiz 2, seeming unfazed by the implicit revelation that Quiz 1 had been administered during the time she missed class. Unsurprisingly, she did not do well.
When AC missed class on Wednesday, the alternating pattern in my gradebook jumped out at me. She was coming to class on Tuesdays and Thursdays—and only Tuesdays and Thursdays. Was it possible? Could it be?
Did AC think she was in a Tuesday-Thursday class?
Nonsense! She had a syllabus that contained homework assignments for every day of the week. Had she not looked at it? (Hmm. Possible.) When I wrote “Exam on Monday” on the board, did she not notice? (Perhaps she heaved a sigh of relief and thought, “Thank goodness that doesn't apply to me!”) The very idea was absurd. No student could possibly think that she was getting five units of credit for a class that met for only two hours per week! And had she never heard me say “See you tomorrow!” or “Recall that yesterday...”?
But true. I caught her after class on Thursday (Thursday) and asked her if she was going to be able to attend class more regularly. AC was nonplussed. “Don't we meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays?” (“Exam Monday” was on the board behind me.) “Yes, we meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays—but also Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This is a daily class.”
No, I didn't “drap” her from class, but her improved attendance since that discussion has not been accompanied by an improvement in her course work. It's as though she overlooks some of the most basic things.