The day before break

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We were expected to avoid parties and celebrations, providing full instruction until late in the day on the Friday before break. I don’t support that approach. In fact, I think it’s a perfect example of theory trumping common sense.

One of the best reasons not to attempt rigorous instruction on the day before break has to be the number of students who take that day off. In my school, most students with disciplinary infractions took the day off since they were supposed to do academic work with the Dean while their peers had fun. This absentee tally does not include the number of kids who told their parents or guardians that they didn’t feel well and therefore might as well stay home since, because of upcoming vacation, little work would be done at school anyway. One of my best students had travelled to Miami for a family wedding. Various students in the school recently left for Mexico. Some will miss more than a week of instruction while visiting relatives in Guanajuato, Mexico or other places where the weather’s warm and dad and mom have family. One year, I lost two boys for two months when they went to Puerto Rico for the winter. The boys never attended school there, either. They came back with excellent tans and little hope of catching up on what they had missed.

I know the counterargument would be that those students who come to school should get the full range of services we can provide. I agree with that idea. I’m just saying that it’s complicated, especially when students are all excited about vacation, promised Christmas cell phones, family gatherings, church celebrations, and all the little details of the season that eclipse day-to-day academics, at a time when up to one-third the class is absent.

Eduhonesty: The day before break is a perfect day for reinforcement activities, for fun Jeopardy math and science games. It’s a ridiculous day to introduce new material, but a few of my colleagues who had fallen behind the scripted curriculum went forward when they should have retreated, trying to catch up to the schedule. In a saner time, no one would think of introducing new material on the Friday before break, but we have a schedule to keep. That schedule sometimes leads to real wackiness.