Proactive Absences

Absences from school, whether due to illnesses or other circumstances, can disrupt a student’s academic routine. Additionally, as absences accumulate, students often experience stress due to missing work, growing to-do lists, and missed instruction. While some absences are unavoidable, there are strategies that students and families can employ to reduce the negative impact that absences might cause.


  • If possible, parents should let the school know about upcoming absences, especially if the absences are going to span over several days. For middle and high schoolers, parents can contact the attendance secretary or their child’s guidance counselor. These points of contact can quickly pass on the information to all of the student’s teachers so that everyone is aware of the upcoming absence.
  • Parents and/or students should let teachers know of absences well in advance when possible. Surgeries, orthodontist appointments, vacations, etc., are often scheduled farther in advance. The sooner teachers are made aware of the upcoming absence, the more likely they will be able to organize work for the days that the student will miss. This allows students to keep up with the work as opposed to playing catch-up upon their return.
  • Utilize online resources, such as Google Classroom, class websites, and school portals. Nowadays, teachers are posting everything from extra handouts, copies of the homework, and PDFs of class texts, to entire lessons and PowerPoints online for students and families to access from home. If students are well and able to complete work from home during an absence, encourage them to use online resources to keep up with the coursework. Remember, specific questions, especially from a student who has missed class recently, are highly encouraged; teachers are thrilled to see students being proactive and accountable for their schoolwork.
  • Especially for lengthier absences or family vacations, students may want to draft a plan for make-up work upon their return. If materials cannot be gathered in advance, ask teachers about setting up work sessions during lunch, or before and after-school tutoring, upon return.
  • For middle and high schoolers, who will likely need to arrange several sessions with multiple teachers across multiple content areas, set a weekly goal for work completion to keep it on track. Make sure that goals are realistic: if a student has been out for a week, it is unlikely that he will be able to complete all missing assignments over one lunch period.
  • Students should avoid putting too much pressure on themselves, as that can foster stress and result in procrastination. However, they also must try to be diligent about the make-up work to avoid digging themselves into a hole if schoolwork begins to pile up to an insurmountable degree.
  • Prioritize the make-up work so that the most critical assignments are accounted for first. For extreme illnesses or surgeries, counselors and administrators may decide to “excuse” students from small tasks, like homework assignments or practices. As long as a student can demonstrate mastery on major assignments, assessments, and tasks, the smaller items may be removed from the workload.