I haven’t experienced an attendance requirement till I came to University. My school obviously had attendance rules, and the board I took obviously had an attendance requirement. However, roll call was not one of those things that happened at my school. We were all regular attendees. It was very rare that someone skipped/missed a day at school, and even rarer for somebody to be absent from classes for a prolonged period of time. I think roll call was common in Grade 8, but then just evolved into our Class Teacher looking around and enquiring about our attendances. Once in a while a register would come out, and we’d end up reminding them which days we missed. I always missed one week of school for HMUN, and then missed like one or two days if I was unwell, at most. I remember missing a few days in Grade 11 and Grade 12: where our class size was small, and we’d end up missing school to study. Most of us took board exams in January, so our teachers would encourage us to stay at home when we needed to get stuff done. It was swell.
Cut to University, where there was a stringent attendance requirement and a penalty to boot in the case of non-compliance. When I heard we had the concept of roll call/attendance on campus, I was spooked. This was majorly a result of the fact that I hated being “called on” in front of a crowd I didn’t know – because in the first weeks of college everybody is just getting to know each other and nobody really knows anybody’s name properly: which means everybody is looking around when attendance is happening trying to figure out whose face associates with what name. But also because I was super scared I’d answer with the incorrect salutation. Saying “Yes, Sir” instead of “Yes, Ma’am”, or “Yes, Ma’am” where the response was supposed to be articulated as “Present, Ma’am” was something that genuinely frightened me. As such I was late to campus. I really did not want this to become one of the things I became known for.
Alas, none of that transpired. In my first semester, I attended all but 4 days of University lessons. I missed 2 of those for a debate, and 2 of those when I stayed at home after the debate. That was it. I was regular to class, with the zeal and enthusiasm of a first-year. The day that attendance was declared for the semester, I was carefree. I literally slept-in, fully aware that it was impossible for me to get called out for not having enough attendance. To my surprise, I received a phone call from a concerned friend. I had “backs” [a shortage of attendance] in every single subject. I was outraged. I legitimately ran to the exam department in pyjamas, freaking out about what came next. How could I explain this to my parents? How could I have gotten my Math so wrong?
When my turn came, I went to this massive Excel sheet, filled with everyone’s attendance details, and found out that they had conveniently forgotten the fact that I had started a month late, making my physical attendance on this campus for a month, physically impossible. That added about 45% to my attendance, marking me safe for semesters to come.
Iconically, the first-semester was my most well attended.
In second semester, I tracked my attendance on an Excel sheet. I wasn’t skipping classes too much, but I needed to keep track. Moot work caught up to me. As did my general laziness. Plus I fell really sick in second semester and had a back issue I needed to take bedrest for, for quite a while.
This continued on to my third and my fourth semesters. Unscathed by that attendance back monster.
In my fifth semester, I ended up in a position where I had to help out with exemptions and figuring out people’s attendance situation as best I could. Which led to more trips to the exam department. This happened in my sixth semester too. By this point, I had switched over to tracking attendance on an application on my phone – which allowed me to mark all the exemptions I claimed from committees. The saving grace for me was always those exemptions. Invariably I skipped class for committee work or other internship related work. Or sometimes to sleep. This, despite the fact that I could see the classroom from my bed. If I didn’t wake up on time for the first hour of class, chances are that I didn’t go to class that day at all. It was crazy. Each time though, the fact that most of my bunks were on the back of some genuine committee work saved me. I used to be pretty scared on attendance declaration day though. My dad used to be a little worried too – we exchanged text messages each time the e-mail came about declarations, and once I remember him calling me to find out if I was in the clear, because I was unresponsive on text for quite the while.
Last semester I was a little worried about my attendance.
This semester, I am not. Not as of yet.
I’m tracking my attendance on an application again. On my phone. It’s up to date, but it’s only actually been 3 weeks of class. It’s only been 1 week for me. However, I must confess. I’m not entirely sure about which subject (the full form of the paper) which professor is taking – especially when it comes to my clinicals. As a result, for the first time in my life, I’m tracking my attendance by the Professor’s name.
[I know. I need to correct that. One day I will.]