Empathy for the Absent

Does this look like your classroom lately? Me too.

Core scripture: “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (Philippians 2:4-5)

Message: I am not sure if there has been any year the flu has knocked out as many kids as it has this year.  Dude, my poor kids are dropping like flies!  Absences have been piling up like Tetris blocks on level 15.  Kids are falling behind, missing tests and projects. 

What is a teacher to do?

Here are some tips on dealing with the absent in a Christlike manner …

  1. Preach to your students what to do when they are absent from day one.  I always encourage my kids to email me from home—especially if they have any questions. 
  2. I also remind students is their responsibility to come see me when they return.  I will do my best to touch base myself, but this keeps kids accountable. 
  3. If a kid is gone from class for two or more straight days and you have heard nothing from them, send a quick email asking how they are doing and if they have any questions.  Make it even more personal with a phone call to mom or dad.
  4. Honor that child while they are gone.  Say only positive things about them if their name comes up, and stand up for them politely if someone shames them in any way.
  5. Notice them when they return.  Greet them at the door and say, “Joey!  Welcome back!  We missed you!”  Then you might ask what kept them home. 
  6. Give the kid a quick spiel about what they missed, but don’t overwhelm them. 
  7. Chunk their missing work.  Slow them down to take it step by step.  It is less overwhelming to see just the step ahead than the entire assignment.
  8. Be understanding and full of grace.  I can remember a year ago when I had COVID, I didn’t want to do anything for three days.  If the kids are feeling pretty rotten, they aren’t going to want to do any work from home.
  9. Know your school district’s policy on absences.  My district says students get two days for makeup work for every day they miss. 
  10. If a kid is out for an extended period, it is okay to excuse them from some assignments.  Maybe pick the essentials they will need to pick up or modify the existing assignment a tad. 

One final bonus idea.  I had a kiddo last year who was emailing me daily when she was gone.  She wanted to be at school so bad and was quarantined since a family member had COVID, but she was fine.  I asked if she wanted to Zoom with us, and she readily accepted.  Her classmates, especially her friends, LOVED seeing her face on the screen as we read aloud in our novel. 

Just to come clean, one of my biggest temptations in dealing with absent students is thinking that the kids should always be working from home.  Almost as if my classwork should be the top priority in their lives. 

Let’s face it.  This is a nice little thought, but there is more to students’ lives than your classwork.  Take a walk in their shoes.  When I am feeling under the weather, I don’t feel like doing much either. 

That is the most important thing: Empathy.  Understanding.  Toss in some encouragement to your absentees and you are good to go.  You can’t take away the flu, but you can assist the child in navigating the stresses of getting caught up. 

Challenge: Which of the suggestions above might work for you?  Give any of them a try as you power your way through flu season. 

Prayer points: Lift up the following areas to the Lord …

  • Pray for the health of your students and colleagues as we fight flu season.
  • Pray that we can handle absences with grace, accountability, and compassion. 

Suggestions: Do any of you have suggestions for topics I should be writing about?  Do not hesitate to email me with ideas or questions at theteachersdevotional@gmail.com

Just for fun: The 7th grade boy is quite the unique species.  I caught one of them who brought in a tall Pringles can filled with water for a makeshift water bottle.  The day before it was a green bean can.  Take your pick … which one is more disgusting?  It might have been the most interesting phone call home I made all year. 

Prayer: Father, I pray for the health of my students as they travel through flu season.  May the way I handle it be glorifying to You.  Amen. 

Categories: Uncategorized

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