Chalk Talk: Vacation Alert



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We all know how difficult the Canadian winters can be to endure – the snow, the cold, the storms, and of course, the cursed shovelling. Many families travel to sunny destinations to help them cope with the long Canadian winter.

Unfortunately for most teachers, this is not an option. Our holidays are preset for us: Christmas, March break and summer. Most school boards require teachers who wish to holiday during the school year, to put in a written request for an unpaid leave six months in advance. Some school boards will only grant this leave once in a career. So that means most teachers spend the entire winter in Canada. *Sigh*.
Not that I’m jealous that non teaching professionals of the world get to do some jet-setting whenever they choose (coincidentally when the airfares are cheaper) but there is frustration in how some families choose to handle their child’s holiday from school.

There are the parents who tell their kids weeks in advance they will be going to Cuba and I hear
about it every day. But when I ask the students when they are leaving, they have no idea and the parents never officially inform the school they will be absent. Then you have the parents who don’t tell the kids, don’t tell the school and one day, they’re gone and we spend all week calling
home, to see where the child is. We go through the list of emergency contacts and eventually find out, you’re discovering ‘It’s better in the Bahamas’. The kids will come back to school a week later, with a tan and stories about the ocean.

The biggest issue for me is the learning that is missed. Yes, you are having a valuable learning experience with your family and creating memories that will last a lifetime. But do you really need to book family holidays during the school year every year that your child is in school? The message that essentially is being sent to your child is that education is not important.

There are parents who support the learning that is going on in the classroom and will request that some school work be sent home. Great! Teachers are not required to prepare any work but many will, in hopes of making the catchup period easier when the student returns. Most families will spend the time on the airplane doing their work, or during long car rides (that explains the spilled juice on the math sheet and the scribbling, otherwise known as cursive writing, in the journal, but we’re happy that you got some work done). You get major applause from teachers!

What really gets me is when I am asked to get a work package together and it doesn’t get done. I spend the week before your child goes away, trying to figure out where I will be in our lessons for every subject, what activities will be going on in the school and estimate how much time each lesson will take. Then I do the lesson planning for the rest of this week (and another week if you will be gone for two weeks!). I get all the worksheets photocopied, special materials prepared, all the notebooks, textbooks and supplies collected for your child to begrudgingly take
home the day before your holiday. It takes a lot of effort by your child’s teacher to be this well prepared for you! Teachers are required to plan the next three days in advance but to plan for a week or two or three in advance is a challenge. So you go on your holiday, have fun in the sun while I’m still shovelling snow.
You come back and guess what? You forgot to pack the homework or you were too busy having fun to even look at it! GRRRRR!!! Worst of all, you didn’t even send a postcard. Now that hurts more than your Caribbean sunburn.

Published in October 2010.

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