90% of life is showing up

Nikka Landau teaches in Taiwan, where teacher absenteeism is not an issue. A teacher always shows up to work unless seriously ill. So do students.

Claire Landau teaches third grade in Philadelphia, where truancy is common for both teachers and students. She writes to her sister:

Your teachers and students go to school with a purpose. For a purpose. Here in Philly, school is a place you show up at (or don’t show up at) each day. This is true for students and it is clearly true for teachers as well.

. . . Raising attendance means schools must come up with innovative ways to make their communities feel responsible for the school and make parents feel accountable for their children’s performance in school. For teachers, raising attendance, means creating a space where teachers are supported and feel motivated to work hard and give their energy.

Finally, measuring attendance and demanding that both, teachers, parents and students do better would mean that, instead of continually passing the buck, we would all have to deal with each other.

Claire recalls a recent Friday: Six teachers out, no substitutes.

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  1. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I think 90% is probably an overstatement… but apropos of the student-tracking discussion several posts below, there is a strong correlation between showing up and success.

    It’s just a correlation, though. The sorts of people who will show up on time and consistently are, as a group, more likely to do well.

    Teaching might be a special case: there’s a 12-year time deadline and you need pretty much every day of those 12 years to turn out a prime educational product (i.e., a masterful student). Every day lost is a day *lost*. Forever. Because while the teacher or the student is playing “make up” others are off making new progress.

  2. 90% may be showing up (I’ve actually heard 80%), but I wish some of my students would stop expecting that just showing up (and nothing else) should be sufficient to earn them a B.

    I will say I’ve taught “sick” (with a bad migraine) a few days and I wondered if it was even worth my trying – I know I was not very comprehensible those days.

  3. Homeschooling Granny says:

    ‘Showing up’ reminds me of a column by Nat Hentoff. When some were knocking jobs at McDonald’s as deadend, Hentoff wrote that people employed there learned (1) to show up when they didn’t want to, (2) to do work they’d rather not, (3) to be nice to people they’d rather not, and (4) to stay when they’d rather leave. He called these basic skills to be employable.

  4. I used to go to work when I was sick. I don’t know why. I thought it was a sign of toughness or something.

    But now I stay home. That’s what sick days are for. Life is short. Nobody should have to work when sick.

  5. I would add: just do the work.

    Just show up and do the work. Whether or not they’re great students, diligence and persistance pays huge dividends in this country at least.

  6. A friend of mine said, If you Go to work when you are sick, at least you get a little something done. If you don’t go in, NOTHING gets done. A little something is better than nothing.