Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Since When Did Going to School Become a Punishment??


This morning, I am fired up and ready to spill out some personal opinions and cold hard truths.  Some may be offensive.  Some may cross the border of "professional".  But, after what I read on Facebook last night, I really don't care.

It all started last night when a local news station decided to post the question "Do you think snow days should be made up on Spring Break".  

Now, the news station was doing what they do best:  Stirring up controversy.  Snow day make up is a hot button of discussion around these parts, being that most school districts have had about 14 days of missed school due to snow.  That equates to almost three weeks of instruction that has been missed due to Mother Nature.

And, I'll say right now, I wasn't shocked to see the majority of people voting NO.  People make vacation plans and travel plans and other kinds of plans on spring break.  Heaven forbid that trip to Cancun gets cancelled for something as stupid as GOING TO SCHOOL!  (Offensive statement #1)

But, that wasn't the real beef I had.  That wasn't what got my blood boiling and me ready to scream at people for being the cause of the nation's education problems.  

No, that all came from the following two statements that I saw over, and over, and over again in some form or another on that thread last night (these are two actual statements made):

"Why should kids be PUNISHED for snow days, and have their BREAKS taken away?"

and, my favorite...

"Why is it fair that my kid has been assigned work to do on the snow days while the teachers sit home doing nothing and enjoying their days off?  Don't give them work on snow days and then ask them to make up the missed days.  That's "doubling up" and it's not fair.  Teachers don't have to work on their days off - including snow days.  I'm not sure what the labor board would say if teachers were made to work when they weren't at school teaching?"

To add some further fuel to the fire, I saw parents making these statements (and these are copied and pasted from Facebook, by the way..fixing some errors in spelling and grammar, naturally):

"NO! Because all the teachers care about is teaching to that stupid test.  I couldn't give a rat's a** how my kid does on that test, it doesn't tell me anything.  My kid is going to enjoy her snow days AND enjoy her spring break.  No school is going to punish my kid just because there's snow."

"Why on earth should the kids HAVE to make up the snow days?  My kid makes all A's, so I'm not concerned about them learning what they need to know before next year.  My kid's teacher just needs to work a little harder to make sure they cover everything in the time they have.  It's not like they don't have plenty of time off to plan for this sort of stuff."

"No, don't make them go on Spring Break!! Kids have enough school!! They won't learn anything, anyway.  All the teachers do is play movies and let them goof off.  Just add the "movie days" on at the end.  It's not like any teachers teach anything once those tests are over anyway."

And, all I can say to that is..


I thank all things holy that these comments were made by people FAR AWAY from my school district.  I could almost guarantee you wouldn't hear many statements like that from our parents (in the amount of droves I saw last night, anyway).  I am actually blessed to work in a school district that respects and supports the teachers and the school.  Thank goodness!!

And, I'm also very happy that I work in a school district that doesn't do the usual spring break.  Instead, we are given long weekends each month between Christmas and end of school.  But, do you know what happens to those "breaks" when the snow days start adding up?  Yep.  They're gone.  No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  Because our administration recognizes that three weeks of snow days equates to plenty of "breaks".

But, being that these comments were made by people that live in my area, I'm going to point out a few cold, hard truths.

1.  It is the GOVERNMENT who dictates how many days kids HAVE to be in school.  In many areas, that's 178 days.  LESS THAN HALF THE YEAR!!  One hundred and seventy eight days to teach the extensive list of standards that are deemed necessary for a child to learn before moving on to the next grade.

2.  No matter how much anyone hates those tests (teachers being at the top of that list), they are required BY THE GOVERNMENT to measure a school's success.  School funding and other important aspects of the education world are dictated by the test scores.  Nobody that's actually in education like them, they loathe them in fact, but we also want to make sure that our kids are getting the education they deserve.  And, if the government mandates that with a test, then we are going to do whatever we can to prepare the students for those tests, so that they can continue to receive a good education.  Don't like it?  Take it up with your elected officials.  DO NOT BLAME THE SCHOOLS OR THE TEACHERS.  They don't actually get to make the rules that affect your child's learning.

3.  A parent that looks at school as a "punishment" will raise a child that looks at education as a "punishment".  Instead of whining and complaining about how their breaks are going to be taken away from them because "the mean old school" is making them go because of the snow days, how about explaining to your child that their education is first and foremost the priority?  

"I'm sorry, Johnny, but we're not going to be able to have our trip this spring break because it's more important that you learn everything you need to this year, so that you can be successful next year.  We can always take the trip next year, whereas your education just can't be done over.  We have to support the school's decision in wanting to make sure that all of their students get the education they need.  Your education will help you, one day, be able to take your own family on nice vacations during spring break... and that's far more important."

4.  I can't speak for ALL teachers, but I will tell you that ALL of the teachers I know most certainly DO NOT stop teaching the minute the test is over.  In fact, I would go out on a limb and say that the most fun and meaningful learning happens AFTER the test.  Because even though the majority of teachers I know do not "teach to the test", their hands are tied in timing and standards that have to be covered in order to prepare the students for the tests.  Once the test is over, the teachers are pretty much free to turn back in to the creative, Pintrest loving, and educationally (not test) focused teachers they first set out to be. Because they no longer have a test looming over their heads.  Fun, educational, and meaningful projects start coming out.  Kids are challenged to think outside the box for fun endeavors of creative learning, experimentation, and imaginative projects.  I know that I would rather poke my eyes out with blunt pencils than play a movie every day for the remainder of the year.

5.  Contrary to popular belief, teachers don't work the cushy 8-4 Monday to Friday job that everyone thinks they do.  They are contracted for 180-185 days a year.  Meaning that's how many days they are PAID to work.  And, sure, teachers get holidays, weekends, breaks, summer, and snow days off... but do you really think they spend that time doing nothing?  Again, I won't speak for all teachers, but I will speak for the teachers I know (myself included) that are up until ungodly hours of the night grading and entering in grades, writing lesson plans, creating units, and going through the standards with a fine tooth comb deciding how on earth they are going to fit them all in when almost three weeks of their teaching time has been taken away by snow.  Please, madam, complain about your child having to do an assignment on a snow day and cry and whine about how "unfair" it is that your child has to work when the teacher doesn't.  But, please think about how much a teacher works while not in a classroom.  Think about the teachers that sacrifice time with their own families in order to make YOUR child's educational experience the best it can be. Please compain.  Do.  I dare you!

6.  How are snow days any different than days missed by a child because of illness?  Every child that is absent from school is required to make up any work missed while gone.  They don't automatically get a "free pass" just because they were sick or had a death in the family or went on a vacation during school days.  So, explain to me why it's SO unfair that kids are asked to do work on unscheduled, missed days like snow days?  Of course I'm not saying that teachers should assign kids all the work they are missing while at home, but does it really hurt to have them do some reading or math practice while they are cooped up at home?  And like a very wise professor shared on my Facebook this morning, the parents complaining about work being assigned during snow days are probably the same parents complaining that their kids are bored and have nothing to do.  I'm sure you think it a lot more FAIR that your child spends the entire day in front of the TV or video game, but how about taking a pointer from #3 and stress the importance of their education.  The schools nor teachers control the weather, so they are doing their best in a bad situation.  The weather may keep the kids from school, but is it really so bad to send the school to the kids?  Keep their brains focused with some reading and math practice, it won't kill them.

7.  America is one of the few countries that have so LITTLE time in schools.  Look to the countries that have AMAZING educational scores and success.  They are in school an average of 200-250 days of the year.  They have longer school days and far less breaks.  While I haven't visited any of these countries, I will go out on a limb and say that you probably won't see parents complaining about making up 14 days lost in a 178 day calendar.  They put education first and foremost, and believe that taking a kid away from school for too long (like 3 months in the summer) is a detriment to the educational process.  Kids regress and lose some of their skills during such a long time away from school.  On average, the "summer break" in most countries is 4-6 weeks.  And they are not receiving 2-3 weeks off every other month.  I, for one, can attest that when I went to school in England, we had 2 weeks off for Christmas, 6 weeks off for summer, and several days off throughout the year for major holidays.  And even though England averages about 192 days of student/teacher school days, their days off are spread out throughout the year to minimize regression.  I know that it won't change how things are done here, and I'm not saying that any drastic changes need to be made to our school year (even though I think we are out too much), but I definitely think that making up 14 days is IMPERATIVE to giving our kids the very best education they can receive.

And, I think that about covers my rant points this morning.

Once again, I just like to point out how truly blessed I am that I work where I work.  Situations like I complained about above are not a cause of concern for me.  I don't get parents whining and complaining to me about "punishing" their child for going to school.  I get nothing but support.  Most of the kids I teach come from backgrounds where education is a gift, not a right.  The parents embrace it, make it a top priority, and want their child to receive the best education possible so that their child has a chance of making something of themselves and breaking the poverty cycle.  For that, I am truly thankful.  

It just hurts my heart when I know teachers who are teaching in the schools those parents are complaining about.  Some were my mentors.  I received my training in passion and motivation from those very teachers being bashed and condemned.  And, that makes me sad.

What it really boils down to is the fact that I don't think parents are fully aware of what goes on behind closed doors.  They don't get to see the amazing teaching that's taking place.  They don't get to hear about all the mandates and rules that government officials hand down to school administrators.  They don't understand that the teachers and administrators and doing the very best they can with the rules and laws they are given.  And, at the end of the day, I don't think people (parents) realize just how much teachers care about their students education, and the true desire they have for their kiddos to succeed and make something of their lives.  

Again, I can't talk for all teachers.  I'm not naive enough to look over the fact that there are a few "bad eggs" out there.  Some teachers have gotten to a point where they are so sick of the government interfering, or the high (almost impossible) expectations that are put on their shoulders, that it turns them in to drones that just go about their day in a robotic stance running the motions.  

But, in my experience, I haven't met any of them.  I have been in three of the four major school districts in my area over the course of the past five years, and EVERY SINGLE teacher I interacted with or observed or learned from had their students' needs first and foremost.  Sure, some were tired and wilted by the lack of support they received from parents, but that didn't stop them from doing what they do and making sure their students didn't fester the same attitude.

And, I will also say that I have met MANY parents who do have their child's educational future first and foremost in their list of priorities.  They support the teachers, administration, and school's decisions.  

I'm not judging all parents.  Nor all teachers.

But, it just makes me very sad to see SO MANY comments like I saw last night.  

I was appreciative of the comments that were thrown in out of support for teachers and the schools.  I was melted by some of the kind words said about me (by complete strangers) as I went on the defensive last night.  I am thankful and for my job, and no Negative Nelly's will have any impact on how I look at my job and the importance it has on our future.

If anything, there has been some good to come out of all this negativity.  

It has further instilled to me how blessed I am to have my job.  To work for the people I work for.  To work with the people I work with.  To be one of the lucky ones that gets to see what happens behind those closed doors, and the magic that takes place.

And I know, that no matter how many snow days we get, it will be my TOP priority to prepare my students, and provide them with all they need to know in order for them to be ready for next year.  No matter how many hours I put in outside of the classroom, how many changes and adjustments I have to make.  I will gladly do it.  Because Mother Nature will NEVER stop me from doing what I do best.

Impacting and improving the lives of our children.


1 comment:

  1. The current school year calendar was developed when the country was mainly an agrarian economy - farming. Children were needed to plant & reap the crops. We are no longer an agrarian society and do not need to conform to the "summers off" calendar. I agree that students should attend school for a longer time each year. I am in Human Resources and the candidates we interview definitely need more school!


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