yes, yes you did

Now, I know that I’m not a typical student. I only remember not doing the reading once during the five years or so it took me to get my BA and MA–and I scrunched down in my seat in shame the whole time I was in that classroom. I hate missing classes, I never turn in anything late, and I’m still traumatized by the recent 8 out of 10 I got on an assignment. Short version? I’m an overachiever that is deathly afraid of failure. (But at least I’m aware of it, right?)

But as a teacher, the number one thing I hate is when students miss a class, don’t notify me beforehand, and then come in to ask me if they’ve missed anything important. Yes. Of course you did. What do you expect, I sit around designing course objectives and syllabi and readings just for fun? This especially irked me in Germany, since we weren’t getting paid for teaching (just gaining “valuable work experience,” insert eye roll here). Next time, I’m going to send them this poem, and hope they get the point. Or learn to ask their fellow students, not me. (Let’s keep expectations low, here.)

Did I Miss Anything?

Tom Wayman

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 percent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 percent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
the hereafter
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
on earth.

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human experience
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
gathered

but it was one place

And you weren’t here

From Did I Miss Anything? Selected Poems 1973-1993, 1993
Harbour Publishing

Copyright 1993 Tom Wayman.
All rights reserved.

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