I had a student that has attended from the second day of class, but since I’ve moved away from tracking students by my attendance sheet and only using personal information files, his assurance that he was registered for my class wasn’t properly checked up on until later in the semester. Some students register after the class begins, and they have a week to change their schedules. He said that he had registered for my class, but when I went to build my grade sheets after my first quiz, his name was missing. My grade sheets are pulled directly from the online registration, so if he wasn’t on that list, he isn’t in my class.

I put that onto his file, but the day that I had meant to ask him about it he failed to attend. I thought that he was simply attending the class for no credit (which has happened before), but students that attend classes because they want to hang out with friends don’t take quizzes or come to as many classes. He clearly thought he was going to get a grade if he was showing up for my class on a quiz day. I remembered this today, since mid-terms are next week and asked him if he was absolutely sure he was in the right class.

We went to check online, and it turns out he was attending at the right time, only taking the class with the wrong teacher. It’s more common than I’d expect, but understandable. If you miss the first class, and don’t realize that all the teachers in the building teach in classrooms with the same room number but a confusing alphabetized sub-label distinction, it’s easy to end up sitting in the wrong room. I ask all students to triple check their schedules for this exact reason, and on the first day I had three students sit through my entire lecture because they were too embarrassed to admit they were in the wrong room. If your friends are also in the class, there is an extra incentive to want to stay there too. I don’t think he was trying to cheat the system to hang out with people in the class, but that’s been the excuse other students have used to explain their error. This guy was totally shocked by the discovery.

I’m going to have my mid-term next week, and so is the teacher he is supposed to be attending, so his actual teacher and I needed to work out some kind of compromise. Our first attempt was trying to allow him to move into my class officially through the English department. It turns out that the department doesn’t allow this, despite having both of our permissions to do it, so we had to find an equivalency between our grading systems and work out how we’re going to evaluate his progress in my class so far. The other professor offered to honor my grades to this point, add him to his curve, and teach him after the mid-term class. Since we covered different units, he is going to take my mid-term examination, then join the other class for the rest of the semester. The other teacher will give him whatever score he thinks represents the effort he did in my class. It’s not fair to either set of classes to keep him in a class where he is competing with entirely different students for a grade, which is why we can’t have him stay in my class. The students in his actual class will lose a spot on the curve that they never got to compete against.

It’s unfortunate that I didn’t follow up earlier, or that I didn’t have more doubt for his original story, but I really don’t need to worry if he can’t read his own schedule. It sucks for him to  lose points to an honest mistake, but I’m not moving my classes into different rooms and I wasn’t trying to deceive him by letting him stay. I believed him when he said he was in the right class. He needed to know what was on his schedule. I put too much trust into adults making their own decisions. He is a senior, which means he really needs the class credit to graduate. He’s a good student too, which surprised me as this is a very “Freshman” kind of mistake. Mistakes of this caliber have been detected by more experienced teachers than myself, later in the semester, or even after the semester is over, which is much worse.

Teachers that use the “student binder” method of attendance told me that it is the number one problem with that method of taking attendance. Students that can’t attend the right class that don’t figure it out after grades are decided usually get stuck with C+ grades (at best) because even if they are excellent, that’s the highest grade possible given to someone you don’t want to affect the curve.  This guy might be lucky enough to actually get a slightly better grade, depending on what my coworker decides. He was on his way to a solid B with his current effort, and he is a likable, sociable guy that should be able to make friends in the other class and still do well.