In order to satisfy my curiosity about how perfect attendance would affect my school performance, I decided to undertake a 30 day trial, during which time I would not allow myself to miss class; no matter what.
My thoughts going into this experiment was that I would have different types of exposure to the material, be able to stay on top of it without falling behind, and be more immersed within the school environment. The alternative to going to class is to watch the recorded podcast video of that same lecture from home (generously uploaded to our iTunes, within 2 hours, as a courtesy from our school- NYUCD).
However, instead of using this method as an alternative, I went to every class without exception, and listened to most of the podcasts to see if there was anything I missed during lecture. The following is my personal experience and account of my perfect attendance at NYU Dental School.
1. Capturing information. While attending class, it is virtually impossible to capture everything a teacher says. Either they spoke too fast, weren’t clear, or you felt tired and spaced out momentarily at which point you missed something significant.
The solution for this is to go to the podcasts, and to re-listen to the lecture. However, lecture time to podcast time is not a 1:1 translation in terms of time spent studying. A 2 hour lecture could easily take 5 hours of podcast study, because you often stop and go back, in order to take notes, look something up, and make sure you do not miss any facts.
Had you skipped class, and listened to the podcast at a time and location of your choice, you would only spend the same 5 hours taking notes from the podcast, and save those 2 hours that you would have sat at lecture. Regardless of the method that you use for capturing the information, you still have to organize it, and repeat it many times in order to retain it.
2. Announcements and Structure. In a way, attending every class has the benefit of giving you a structure. This allows you to get some information for each class every single day, so you are aware of what is being covered, even if you don’t record all the facts.
This structure is good if you cannot motivate yourself to study on your own. If you can sit yourself down daily, and study everything that was assigned to you as per the syllabus, then you are not missing out on the structure at all.
3. Community, Cliques, & Politics. Actually going to class gives you a certain type of experience. However, the type of experience that you have in class is generally up to you. Both the large class size of 240, and the influence of the big city, can play a big role on the way people express their attitudes.
At the same time, there are cliques organized by race and religion, groups that band together based on class politics, and a visible segregation can be observed within the student body. Of course, all the distinctions, whether they be racial, political, or other are just a meaning that someone made up, and we decided to play into, and in my opinion take away from a richer experience that each of us could be taking part in.
4. Energy Management. The biggest negative aspect of going to class, for me, is the ability to manage my energy levels. Without having my energy levels up, my body is in attendance, but my brain is totally drained and not operating at full capacity.
Accordingly to the United States Department of Defense, our brains need at least 3 hours to function. However, that’s not necessarily an optimum amount of sleep for a 10 hour day of classes. It’s important to listen to your body, and to realize that your energy levels will not be the same on any given day.
Some days I have the energy to work deep into the night, with perfect clarity and focus. The amount of work I get done will propel me in my studies. The next day, I might be tired, and need to perform lower level activities. The idea of balance, and routine, can be fine for most activities, and even work out on most days, but when the energy level is not there it becomes counterproductive to pretend you can focus perfectly.
Afterthoughts: 30 day trials are a fun way to really learn about something, and give yourself an opportunity to take on a new routine. After 30 days you can give an honest evaluation as to whether the pros outweigh the cons, or vice versa. This experiment has lead me to decide that having perfect attendance is not worth it for me, and that it’s more important for me to manage my energy and learn the material, than to physically be somewhere.
My 30 day trial for the month of February is going to be daily workout- no matter what. This could mean an hour lifting weights, 40 minutes on the cardio machines, or simply going for a run. Regardless, of what the workout is, my goal is to get my blood flowing, work up a sweat, and closely listen to my body as I compare my energy levels from January, to those of February.