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What to email advisor after missing class?


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It's been a shit week for me, my cat suddenly became sick and died unexpectedly on Friday. I skipped class that day, and I still haven't emailed the professor to apologize for missing class – and I'm unsure/concerned about what to say since I'm a first-year and the professor of the class I skipped also happens to be my advisor.

My reasons for hesitation are manifold. For one, this isn't something I would have told my undergrad advisor – in fact, when my grandmother died while I was in undergrad, I didn't alert her even though it had happened the day before the midterm for her class. (There are differences this time around, though, being that I'm much more torn up over my cat than I was over my grandmother – my grandmother was old, already sick, and we weren't that close. My cat was young, died unexpectedly, and was my best friend. I also didn't exactly have the best/closest relationship with my undergrad advisor – she was assigned to me last-minute and I'm pretty sure she didn't even know I was her advisee.)

I also don't want to put my (grad) advisor in the awkward/uncomfortable position of having to respond to bad news. I only missed one class, and I doubt I'll miss any more, since I think throwing myself into work is the best way to deal with feeling sad. I'm just concerned that the quality of my work may go downhill, and I thought it would be a courtesy to let him know something's going on in my personal life since it might affect my work (which, right now, isn't even research, just coursework).

My final concern is that I do have a bit of a crush on my advisor (I know, I know). I'm aware it's just an infatuation and I've been assured by another student that it's entirely normal and will pass with time, but I'm concerned paranoid that sharing the details of my personal life is over-stepping some kind of professional boundary, especially when an email stating that I was just feeling unwell on Friday would be sufficient to explain my absence.

I'm aware that I'm over-thinking this, but please consider that I already have social anxiety on top of the added stress of dealing with my cat dying. I know writing emails is the least challenging part of being in grad school, but like I said – it's been a shit week.

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Simply write to apologize for missing class and say that something personal came up unexpectedly. You don't need to give details. That should be enough as far as your advisor is concerned, we're just talking about one missed class. 

I'm sorry about your cat, though. That's tough. 

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To be honest, I don't expect students to tell me when they skip class or apologize. It's why I have an "everyone's an adult here" attendance policy. 

I do like to know you're OK, but if you show up for the next class, I'll assume that.

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On 10/21/2017 at 10:50 AM, fuzzylogician said:

[W]e're just talking about one missed class. 

However, given the OP's concern that this term's coursework may suffer and that the professor is also @anonymousanthropologist's advisor, would a higher degree of disclosure be worthwhile in this specific instance?

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5 minutes ago, Sigaba said:

However, given the OP's concern that this term's coursework may suffer and that the professor is also @anonymousanthropologist's advisor, would a higher degree of disclosure be worthwhile in this specific instance?

If there's a worrisome grade trend or some other reason for concern, perhaps. But as long as we're just talking about one missed lecture, I personally wouldn't know what to make of a student who informed me that they missed a lecture because their cat died. I would take it to be TMI; "personal reasons" would have sufficed. If there's actually something to explain, we can revisit the question, but I would still not advise OP to put this in an email. It's more of a one-on-one conversation topic. 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 10/21/2017 at 4:52 PM, Eigen said:

To be honest, I don't expect students to tell me when they skip class or apologize. It's why I have an "everyone's an adult here" attendance policy. 

I do like to know you're OK, but if you show up for the next class, I'll assume that.

i think this depends on the program. my program has emphasized repeatedly that they consider grad school to be like a job, and except an email prior to missing class. 

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13 hours ago, meep95 said:

i think this depends on the program. my program has emphasized repeatedly that they consider grad school to be like a job, and except an email prior to missing class. 

More examples of program dependence: At other programs where grad school is treated like a job, they would expect an email if you are going to miss a TA shift or a day at the lab/office. But very few will expect anything for missing a single class since class is not really part of the "job" aspect (it's the "student" aspect). If you're going to miss an exam or a week of classes for a conference or something though, then yeah definitely talk to the prof ahead of time.

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