Originally posted on November 10, 2014. In the ensuing years, vacations in the middle of the school year seem to have dramatically increased.
With the winter holiday season fast approaching, we seem to have more vacation days than school days. While teachers enjoy these non-work days as much as students, if we have to be in the classroom, then we hope students are there as well.
Unfortunately, many parents and guardians see the school days around the breaks as being an acceptable time to take their children out of school for an extended vacation. No matter the destination or purpose, it seems to many of us teachers that the families of our students do not see any significant consequence to students taking extra days away from their academic “jobs.” We in the classroom would beg to differ.
As adults, when we take off work for vacation, we often spread our duties to others and then, at the most, check in with work here and there while enjoying ourselves in the mountains, on the beach or in an exotic foreign destination.
When your student is absent from a day of school, he or she is missing 45-50 minutes of classroom instruction or activities, plus about 30 minutes or so of homework. This easily can add up to a 7-8 hour day for each day they are away with you. This work has to be completed at some point, either before the trip, between vacation activities or in addition to their regular work when they return. And, while I can provide alternate assignments, I cannot replicate the personal insight that comes from an analytical comment I might offer as we read or something he or she learns while participating in a group discussion. Those moments are just plain lost.
Sometimes students will say they only have to do 1-2 hours of work for each day they are gone. If they tell you this, one of three things has happened: 1) We have drastically scaled back the work, taking away much that would have enriched their learning, 2) they are just rushing through the assignments and not focusing on them with any great intensity or 3) they are enrolled in classes that are much too easy for them and perhaps should be advanced to the next level of rigor in the following semester or school year.
While they may be out of class, your child is still learning a lesson. Unfortunately, the lesson they are learning is that being in school really isn’t that important. Students are expected to be in their seats 180 days a year, which is only half a year and much less than in other countries. If a family cannot be “inconvenienced” to plan around their child’s school schedule, what is this teaching the next generation about delaying gratification and meeting one’s obligations?
I also doubt many parents realize is that when a student takes time away from the classroom, a teacher’s workload is increased as well. We have to plan alternate or reduced work for the student, which may be hard to do for those who teach in response to the needs of their students and may be changing the day’s content the afternoon before because a class either mastered a concept or needs to repeat it. Sometimes we feel like we are being treated like store clerks who are expected to have the assignment on a shelf and can simply serve it up at a moment’s notice. And the challenge for a teacher of tracking the absent work of the 5-10 students that may miss class on any given day can be challenging to say the least.
Now, I am happy to do this work for a student who has been ill, because he or she could not avoid missing class. They often come back half-healed and I watch out for them in case they need to visit the nurse. However, I get frustrated when parents place an extra burden on both their student and myself because they have what I call the “Havasu Flu.”
One of the popular mottos of this generation is “Work Hard, Play Hard.” If you want your student to be successful, they need to understand these occur in sequential order, not simultaneously.
I have been a public high school teacher in Southern California since 2005 and writing since junior high. I have an affinity for chocolate, photography, sarcasm and well-written TV shows that refuse to talk down to their audiences.