Damien Riley, author, teacher and dad, keeps an eye on popculture, the news, and humor all around us. His blog, Dynamite Lesson Plan, tackles the topic of education with a perspective from someone on the inside – an elementary school teacher.
Who am I and why am I here?
Hi there again. I’m a big reader of the Man Page and I’ve enjoyed writing a few guest posts here so you may know my stuff. If not, allow me to introduce myself: I am a public school teacher, specifically 4th grade (9 year olds). I’m writing this guest blog in response to a post Derek wrote some time back in which he made the point that schools can make parents feel irresponsible for taking their kids on vacation. I am attempting to shed light on why different schools have an attitude. I also try to make it very clear that I am pro-family vacation! Finally, I provide the tips you need to take your kid out of a public school painlessly. (and be let in the front door upon return!)
Middle Class vs. Impoverished Schools
Most parents know that schools frown on student “vacations” during the year. What most do not know is the difference between a middle class and a poverty frown. Kids from middle class neighborhoods supply the school with much needed ADA funds when they are present. Kids from poverty schools do it too but they have a plentiful supply of Title I, NCLB, free lunch and many other funding programs.
So what does that mean in plain English?
Basically, the middle class schools need money and every kid in a seat pays it! The impoverished neighborhoods have more money than you can shake a stick at and don’t really worry about attendance as a funding source. Isn’t that ironic? A vacation offers so much and yet it is frowned upon. My parents used to always take us to Disneyland and museums, and even the beach sometimes on school days because they thought we would benefit by it.
Guess what, they were right and we did benefit! Out of 4 kids, all 4 have college degrees and 2 have Master’s degrees. The ultimate learning field trip is a family vacation to talk about. You can quote me on that one.
Schools don’t mind as much when poor kids miss school.
The impoverished kids are my professional area of emphasis. I have worked in inner city, impoverished schools since 1997. I’ve made home visits where the parent is out dead drunk or shuffling to hide the crack pipe. They haven’t all been bad but some things are unimaginable. For example, I found out one of my students was being taken to L.A. once a month and fake blood smattered under his nose so he could beg at the airport and make money for his family. Shall I stop there? I am sure cops and social workers see worse than I have with kids, but I have seen enough to know a few hidden truths.
Kids in poverty don’t get pulled out for vacations.
Again, the irony is that the school doesn’t follow up and doesn’t make a stink as much with the impoverished kids. Is it protecting anyone at all? This is a tough subject, I hope I haven’t offended anyone but after 10 years I think I have enough experience for an opinion.
How can you pull your kid out painlessly?
I know I am speaking here today to guys around my age 23-53 in middle class homes. I recommend you take your kids out to have vacations. I do. They have too much stress on them sometimes (though a little stress is good sometimes to achieve healthy, well-balanced goals!).
They will learn more about the world in that trip.
If it’s more than 3 days you want to avoid problems with the office and/or the teacher, see if you can do an “Independent Study” packet. Usually you can and the kid never loses any days on the roll. Sometimes they get huge rewards at assemblies and such for perfect attendance. If its just a day or two, just say she/he was sick.
Read more of my education related blog posts at Dynamite Lesson Plan.