10 Nov

“Our family is going on vacation [during scheduled school days]; can you give us the school work that our Saint Mary’s student will be missing over this time?” Such a simple question, seeming worthy of honorable mention in any parenting magazine, and yet few questions raise the ire of teachers more. After all, there is a good reason why teachers are not allowed vacation time during scheduled school days, and perennially miss the most cost effective vacation times.
Teachers plan what topics will be covered in class months, sometimes years, in advance. Curriculum guides, pacing charts, unit planning are all designed and completed well before classroom activities and assignments. Daily lesson plans, however, are typically completed a week in advance. And a student question, unplanned fire drill, wandering – yet fruitful – discussion, or many other possible teaching “moments” may alter those lesson plans and call for deviations from planned activity, lesson, assignment and assessment plans.
Teachers’ lives are dedicated to making sure that students learn. By their very nature, they want to positively respond to the dreaded question, yet often feel inadequate in their response. They rush to prepare materials and disrupt their classroom planning for the sake of the student going on vacation. They want to be helpful, all of the time worried that their instruction will change and deviate from the plan given to the vacationing student.
The recommended procedure alleviates many of the concerns. Work is not given to a student before the absence. Students are encouraged to check with classmates and teachers to discern what material is missed, and schedule time with the teacher for make-up work, including assignments, tests and quizzes. Families who wish to keep up with assignments during the absence are welcome to contact other families in the classes and arrange for updates during the vacation.
Families who choose to keep students from instructional time in the classroom should be aware of the missed opportunities. Students will not receive the benefits of learning “live” and will simply not be able to duplicate the learning that is missed. That is a parent choice, a choice that should not burden teachers with additional work and worry.