Back in December, I wrote Part 1 of The Mickey Mouse Over School Dilemma. As a teacher and parent, I have seen both sides of this rather controversial topic within the world of Disney Driven people. In Part 2 of this series, I am going to put my teacher hat on for a little while. I will pretend I am not the mother who is once again planning to take her child out of school and focus on teacher thoughts, challenges, and responsibilities.
The Note to School
While teaching, I used to secretly hold my breath if a student brought me a note from home and it was a long one sent to everyone in the team. Most of the time, these were letters to notify us that a child would be missing school, typically for a vacation. As excited as I was for the family to get away, see the world, and spend time together – there was a major reality check. This was going to make more work for me. Yes, I now had to more closely map out my plans for when this student was going to be out of my classroom. I had to make sure that worksheets, notes, and everything were ready to hand to them upon his/her last day of school. Was this required? Not at all and from what I have heard from some friends – some schools are telling teachers NOT to send work in advance for vacations.
Why would a school do this? Are they trying to punish the family and/or child? No, nobody is trying to hurt or penalize anyone. The reality is that schools get money from the state and federal government based on attendance. They need to have certain numbers in their buildings. When a child misses school for a family vacation, no matter where the location, it is technically not a legal absence. I know you are the parents, I know they are your children, and I know it’s your decision, but the rules are there. Legal absences include not being in school because of illness, religious observation, and death in the family. I’m sure there are others, but these are the most widely seen.
I do not believe that schools refuse to provide work completely (correct me if you have experienced this), but I think they are simply asking to do it after the child is back. When the family comes back from the time away, it will be easier for the teacher to have the work that they missed ready and waiting. It is more accurate and at this point they know precisely what the class has covered. Although lesson plans are great, some days things do not go as expected and you may need to spend more time on a particular topic to make sure that the entire class understands it.
Time to Prepare Work
When you know that you have a planned leave for your child, let the teacher know. The more time they have to be aware of this situation the better. They have more time to adjust their plans, gather items, and help your child to be ready to do items on their own. Protocol is different in each school district, and even from school to school. Ask the teacher if you should write a formal note to the principal to let them know about the plans. Another possibility is to e-mail the teacher and cc: the principal so everyone knows the plan.
Teachers are very flexible. With classrooms full of different learners, we quickly adjust to doing things on the fly. Understand that because of this, the work you may get in advance could change from what the class may actually do during the time. If the teacher mentions this, or notes it upon your return try not to be upset. Again, your child is not being punished – things just change.
Extra Work for the Teacher
When you plan to head out of town for a nice family get away, do not forget that you are inadvertently making extra work for your child’s teacher. While most lesson plans are made week/months in advance, some can not be fine tuned until you get closer to when you will be teaching them. With certain topics in science and other areas, you need to gauge how well kids do with the areas leading up to new ones. In addition to this, there are also in class activities/experiences that can not be duplicated at home. Science experiments and labs may be missed and that hands on learning is priceless. A teacher wants to make sure that your child gets the information and understands it. These items may be time consuming for a teacher to try to gather for a family. While working on current content with the classes, they now have to fast forward and gauge what to send home. Papers need to be ready, pages prepared, and more.
On the flip side of your vacation, the teacher needs to check back in with your child to make sure they are caught up. Perhaps there was a change in plans or something else. Now your child will possibly need to spend extra time with the teacher during prep periods, before, or after school (if they are willing) to get up to speed. This is certainly not required, but the majority of teachers will do this because they genuinely care about the kids. Testing and assessment is another tricky item to catch up. Class assessments are easier to take at another time, but be aware of state testing times and try to work around them. If you can try to look at dates and make sure they are least disruptive for everyone, including the school.
Parent side note: I am in a massive dilemma now. New York State originally posted the elementary aged testing dates last fall. I assumed that they would be the dates. When my family was invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration this spring, I jumped at the opportunity. It was JUST after my son would be finishing up his first round of state exams as a third grader. Then, in February, after we were already booked, the principal sent a letter to all families with the testing dates. I did a double take – they had changed one. I was now going to be “that” parent and have a child miss part of an exam.
Let’s get another discussion stated. Are you an educator? I would love to hear your views and pointers for parents as they think about making this decision. For parents/teachers and others, please let me know if you are aware of any rules within the school that you work in or that your children go to regarding missed work/days for family trip.