Cancelling Classes Before Holiday

When Wednesday through Friday are holidays, such as this week’s Thanksgiving break,  it’s tempting for professors who teach on Mondays or gone on holiday signTuesdays to cancel those classes.  After all, it’s just one or two classes preventing us from having a 10-day vacation, rather than a five-day weekend, so why not cancel class, or give students some sort of remote assignment? It seems like an easy trade-off.

As faculty, however, our actions say a lot.  Cancelling a class tells our students that it’s not really important.  Class time is valuable, and we should treat it that way.  If we don’t think it’s important enough to attend class when it is inconvenient, why should we expect our students to think so?

In my 5-7:30 pm Tuesday undergraduate “block” class yesterday, I took an informal survey, asking students how many of them had a class cancelled earlier that day.  Easily three-quarters of them raised their hands.  I asked them how many had a class cancelled on Monday, and the proportion was somewhere between one-third and half.  This is academic malpractice.

Approximately a third of my students skipped that evening’s class.  And who can blame them?  They were told by their professors that it wasn’t important to be in class.  Rather than hanging around all day for the one class that was held as scheduled — and at 5:00 pm, no less — why shouldn’t they head home on Monday or Tuesday morning? Their professors told them that it was more important to get a head start on their holiday.

We covered critical material, but 33% of students completely missed it.  What am I supposed to do about that?  Furthermore, it puts me in the position of being the bad guy for the students who actually came to class.  Students seem shocked that I would dare to hold class late in a day — a regular class day, mind you — when their other professors have told them that holiday plans should take precedence.

I have absolutely no respect for a faculty member who would treat their class so disrespectfully.  As a I wrote earlier, it is academic malpractice.  Our students deserve better.