With March Break / Spring Break around the corner parents might be considering adding a day or two to the week-long school holiday. While the possibility of cheaper flights and more family time is tempting, risking the upset of your child’s teacher may be causing a bit of guilt as you plan. What’s a vacation-seeking parent to do?
I asked the teachers, under the promise of anonymity, and they shared how they really feel about kids missing school for family vacations. This morning I shared some of their thoughts with Marci Ien on Canada AM. The video is here
The most surprising thing? Most teachers aren’t completely against time out of the classroom. They recognize that pressures on family time, the cost implications and the educational benefits of travel outside the classroom. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have some clear pet peeves about the way it’s done. My thanks to all of the teachers who shared these tips for parents to consider before they decide to pull kids out of the classroom for vacation.
1. Give lots of Notice: Tell Teachers as Early as possible
Finding out your child won’t be in class when your child doesn’t show up is the wrong way. Teachers have been planning that day’s/week’s curriculum and a missing student can throw a serious wrench ina planned activity. The best time to tell them? Before you book your ticket. That way you’ll be able to be sure they know as they plan and they’ll be better able to add to your child’s learning before they go.
2. Consider your timing : Is this the right time for YOUR child to be away?
Just because it’s March doesn’t mean it’s the right time for your child to go missing. Ask yourself whether the section of the curriculum your child is currently learning is one they can easily catch up on. Consider their grade level too. The higher they go in the education system the more difficult it is to catch up on what is being missed. Grade 9 &10 are going to be tough but easier than grades 11 &12. Does your child get special resource help? What will happen to those appointments if they’re missed?
3. Take Responsibility for the choice:
Teachers help those who help themselves. If you’re thinking that you can pull the kids out willy nilly and then slip them back in and let the teachers deal with the fallout, you could be in for a rude awakening down the line. Your decision to remove the kids from school is YOUR decision and that means any Herculean efforts to catch them up fall on you as well. Be prepared that you may need to involve tutors or spend extra hours with them and that math you hate to pay for your choice.
- Don’t do it all the time:
Teachers may value the idea of education through travel but that doesn’t mean they don’t also expect to see your child in the classroom for the majority of the year. Don’t abuse the privilege. And they caution that parents should strongly consider the message they’re sending their kids about education when they remove them from class. Any suggestion that “school isn’t important” is a bad one. Finally, keep in mind that it’s not just the learning in the classroom they may be missing. The social aspects of school are part of their development too.
2. Don’t Ask for homework:
If you’re away be away. Teachers say that most of that extra work parents are asking for before heading out on vacation isn’t done properly (if at all) anyway. Rushing to get it done the night you come home from a week of vacation isn’t much use to anyone. And the notion that teachers have nothing better to do than make up extra work packets for your child’s absence is insensitive. Instead they suggest parents and kids focus on doing extra work before and after the trip.
3.Don’t tune out to educational opportunities while away:
This was one of the most common comments from teachers. Encourage your kids to find the learning in their trip and then bring that learning back to the classroom. Presentations (written or oral), blogs, photo slideshows are all ways of sharing new information with classmates. Even trips that might seem purely fun-focused on their face have potential. Many teachers noted that student trips to Disney World’s Epcot Centre resulted in knowledge that was shared when they returned to school.
And finally keep this piece of information in mind: A recent study by The Wagner Group found that students who took educational trips had higher grades than their peers, and students who traveled were more likely to graduate high school and seek higher learning. The absences from school led to more value in education not less, the study found. The study also found that travel “added to the context and depth of classroom discussions,” and that even “short trips with family to learn about local culture, history or nature” could have positive impacts on future career success.
Are you a parent who has a piece of advice to share? Teacher who wants to add to the list? Feel free to leave a comment below.