Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My Absence Policy--A Poem

For a few years now I've been handing out the following poem to my college students and saying it pretty much sums things up--both clarifying my strict policy and injecting some creative / sarcastic humor into the classroom from the get go... so they can adjust... to me; I am, as many students would attest, a TAD sarcastic. Thinking about impending book orders, I also begin having arduous reflections about future syllabi and lesson plans--far too early in the summer, mind you--and so I get a bit snarky because of it.... I may have posted this before, and I may post it again. Deal with it.

Did I Miss Anything

Question frequently asked by
students after missing a class

Nothing. 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 per cent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I'm about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 per cent

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 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
the hereafter
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring this good news to all people
on earth

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human existence
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

-- Tom Wayman, from The Astonishing Weight of the Dead


Victoria Summerley said...

Fabulous. I'm going to seize my kids by the ear and make them read this.

Frances, said...

Where's that happy cheerful Benjamin we know and love? Who is this sorry piece of sarcasm encased in a human body? Getting his car repaired? I am glad you are back.

themanicgardener said...

Oh I love Wayman, but didn't know this one--it's hilarious! I just wish that in the stanza about the angel coming down (what a marvellous concept) he'd ditched the bit about spreading the word and gone with something about being sworn to secrecy. What a great take on teacherly frustration. I love it.


Anonymous said...

This is priceless, but now I'm crushed. I of course thought that you had written it until I got to the attribution...

Benjamin Vogt said...

Victoria--It's good to be literate, isn't it?
Frances--C'mon, join the dark side. Be sarcastic. Come one, everyone's doing it....
Kate--Oh, I like your idea, that'd be much better!
Ellen--Oh, I um, DID write it, that's my, uh, pen name. Actually, I do have a pen name I've used for published work, but I'll never tell.

Frances, said...

I was being sarcastic.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Frances--I can dish it out apparently, but can't take it, huh? I've never been good at receiving sarcasm....:)

Anonymous said...

I love it! LOL...it really is all about the individual! We are the star in our own life.