Recently I asked a teacher about one of her students that I had not seen in several weeks. She said that he had not attended the last 4 classes. I asked her why and she didn’t know. She proceeded to tell me that she doesn’t want to push students to come to her class, that she didn’t want to intrude on their lives by calling them. She wants them to come only because they really want to. I suggested that possibly he was sick or had been in an accident. Wouldn’t even a text checking to see if the student was alright be a good thing? She just shook her head and walked away. The whole encounter made me sad.
Have you ever personally been in any type of group ( i.e. Sunday School Class, Bible Study) and you missed for a week or two or more because of very valid reasons. Perhaps you were sick or had been out of town. If absolutely no one in the entire class even called or texted to check on you, how would you feel? If I had been gone several weeks, my personal answer would be that the teacher/leader/group didn’t value me. They didn’t care about me. I would not consider it a welcoming group. And chances are I would never go back.
Ideally each student would be chomping at the bit to get to class every week. But we know realistically that doesn’t happen because life gets in the way. Our students have jobs (sometimes multiple jobs) and families. Getting to class may be much harder for them than for us. These aren’t just English Classes. These are opportunities to love on our students with the Gospel. In every class they should be prayed over two times (at the beginning and end of class). In every class they should hear a portion of God’s Word and receive a printed copy in their heart language. In every class they should feel welcomed and wanted. We teach English so their lives here in America will be better and easier for them. But the best thing we have to offer them is Christ’s love. And sometimes that means going the extra mile and following up with a student. Texting is great. Many of them can read English better than they can speak it (especially over the phone). Snail mail notes are great too. I have literally had students coming to class clutching a short hand written note that I had sent them. They were overjoyed that someone cared about them.
So as Directors lets help our teachers and classroom assistants see the value in following up with students that are absent. Start by helping them see how precious their students are – every single one of them was made in the image of God. Remind them that God sent us those students but He does require us to do some work sometimes to keep them. Lesson planning and teaching well is important. But if students don’t feel welcomed, they aren’t coming back. And if they don’t come back how can we tell them about Jesus?
***One practical way to help our teachers follow up with absent students is to keep small blank notecards and postage stamps with your classroom supplies. The teachers should all have an attendance list for their class with addresses. That way they can literally write a quick note after class before they head home.
***And don’t forget that as Directors we need to follow up with our volunteers when they are absent too!!