I strongly advocate that people working together in any "class" or "course" adopt a team approach. I will often speak during this course of the importance of our forming a "learning community," and I will attempt to bring that phrase to life in our week-to-week meetings. Members of a learning community are well informed about one another's projects, and they seek out ways to support and challenge one another as they work, learn, and write. In order to make all these good things happen, every member of the group should prepare, attend, listen, learn, and contribute every day.
The four key elements in class participation are preparation, attendance (including prompt arrival), listening, and speaking. Effective preparation requires careful reading, thoughtful writing, and other activities prior to class. Attendance involves showing up every day, arriving on time, and staying with the day's work until class is dismissed (see the policy detailed in the next paragraph.) Listening can be made both active and visible by making notes on class discussions and activities and by referring to what others have said. Effective speaking requires sensitivity to the group: when possible, it is good to hear from every person at least once each day. If you tend to speak very quickly or very often, restrain yourself to create opportunities for others. If you tend to stay silent, push yourself to offer an idea, question, response, interpretation, or analysis on a regular basis.
I expect every student (as I expect myself) to attend every class. In recognition of the unpredictability of life, however, I grant every student one week's worth of absences, no questions asked. Two late arrivals count as one absence. Every absence beyond those granted lowers the student's class participation grade. Any student who misses more than three week's worth of classes should expect to fail the course. Should a student find himself or herself with more than three week's worth of absences, or should s/he anticipate such a situation, s/he should drop the course immediately. [The last day in the fall semester to withdraw from a full-semester course with a withdrawal (WX) grade assigned usually falls at mid-term.] Students with absences fewer than the maximum allowed for the course may be able to "redeem" some of those absences by arranging with me to undertake a project on behalf of the group. (In the past, helping to edit and produce the class source book has been one useful such project.) Students with more than the maximum allowed number of absences may not redeem any absences; as noted above, they should not expect to pass the course, and should drop the course immediately.
Please note that, by design, this policy makes no distinction between "excused" and "unexcused" absences.
I attempt to make my classes Child-Friendly Workplaces. If you are responsible for the care of a child, and you are unable to find care for that child one day, bring the child with you to class rather than missing the class due to your childcare crisis. This special invitation is not open-ended, but rather intended to help with unforeseen, exceptional situations.