Pulling Your Kids Out of School
I want to start this by saying that I pull my kids out of school from time to time without guilt. I’m not just talking about having them miss a day due to a holiday or an appointment. I’ve pulled them out to go to the White House and a literary tour of London, and I’ve also pulled them out for Disney World. I don’t do it to be obnoxious, but sometimes the magical time to go somewhere falls during the school calendar; meaning, the time we can take off from work, the time of an event, or the price of travel.
But I don’t really get the ire over the principal’s response to the parent who took his kids out of school to go to the Boston Marathon. His wife told the teachers beforehand the kids would miss school. The family went on the trip. The family returned and got a letter from the principal reiterating the rules of the school district, which the family cannot change just because they want their kids to see the Boston Marathon.
Because that’s really what the dad is fighting here. No one said that their children were going to be punished for going on the trip. Simply that the travel was an unexcused absence and too many unexcused absences have a consequence. The letter was simply to make the family aware if they weren’t cognizant of this that they should consider how many unexcused absences they’ve now racked up because it could affect them in the future if they choose to take another trip within the same school year.
We’ve had the same discussion with our principal, and the only response is to nod and say, “Thank you, I understand the rules.” Accept the unexcused absences on the report card, try not to rack up any more unexcused absences for the rest of the year, and move on.
The principal doing her job doesn’t make her actions “nasty,” as the dad stated. It simply makes her the principal, who is conveying the guidelines set up by the school district.
There is a reason why schools have these rules and a reason why it behooves parents if they care about teachers to follow the rules to the best of their ability. School absences are a major inconvenience to the teacher who now needs to catch up the student on the work they missed while they were away which often ties into the work that is happening when they return (which they likely won’t understand). It throws off grading.
And even worse are parents who ask for work ahead of time. It takes a lot of effort to put together lesson plans and they’re often shifted on the fly according to the abilities of the class at the moment. It is unreasonable to think you can have the work ahead of time; to shift the teacher’s workload to fit one family’s schedule rather than the class needs or the teacher’s timetable.
So… really… are we actually going to say that the father was “fighting back against the zero-tolerance policy of the school district that is thought to be outdated and nonsensical.”
I just proved that it’s hardly nonsensical. It makes perfect sense if the teacher’s workload is taken into consideration instead of just the family’s convenience.
And, again, no one is saying that the family can’t take a trip. They are only saying that the days missed are unexcused.
I’ve been on both sides of the equation: as a teacher who needs to help a student learn what everyone else learned while they were away on vacation, and as a parent who knows that sometimes the best time to travel is during the school year.
We know the rules, we keep within the confines of the rules, and we make the commitment to teach our children everything they missed while they were away. I don’t expect teachers to prepare anything for them before they leave, and I tell the kids they need to be caught up as soon as possible when they return home. Getting them up to speed rests with me, the person who made the decision to create this hardship, not on the teachers who have no say over what we do as long as we stick within the rules.
Education happens in so many places other than the classroom, and schools are generally flexible and want kids to have beneficial experiences. Really, we can work together with schools; we don’t have to work against them.