Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Every Day is Important

       Occasionally I would have a student who needed to miss my class because of some other event taking place during the school day; a guest speaker, a pep rally, an AP test, extra help in another class, ... all sorts of reasons.  Being the good student that she is, she would come to me a day or two before the event to find out what she is missing and to be aware of lesson and/or assignment for that day.  This never bothered me.  I never considered my class to be the center of universe; and I knew that school offered my students a range of experiences and I wanted them to have these experiences.

       What DID bother me is when the student would ask, "Are we doing anything important on that day?"

       Of course I always responded, "We always do something important."  But this question (also) always made me think of my students' perceptions of my class.  Unfortunately, I think they viewed a "test day" as an important day.  Students would sometimes try to reschedule their other event if they were going to miss a test (sometimes not).  But, I think, that students also perceived the basic lesson day as a less important day; perhaps as just a typical day.  These days are viewed as the days that can be missed without any penalty--you can make up the work; you won't fall behind in any way.

       It is this perception of less-important days that leads some students to skip school for a day.  It leads parents and families to take their children out of school for a day or more for a family vacation or for baseball tryouts or for a scouting trip.

       How do we convince students that every school day is important?  As teachers, we know that the time we have with students in class is valuable time.  Often, we struggle to complete everything that needs to be completed in a school year (or in a course).  But how do we help students to understand that what goes on in class cannot be easily replicated or made-up outside of class?

       It is for this reason that I would always begin teaching on the very first day of school.  I didn't want my students to go home on the first day of school and say, "We didn't do anything in school today.  All we did in every class was introduce ourselves (six times)."  It is for this reason that every time we had an early-closing day or a late-openning day, I would always make the best use of the time I had with my students.  Why come to school if every teacher were to say, "We only have short periods today due to ________ so we are just going to do nothing in class."?

       Every day of school is an important day.  Every class, every minute in class.  Teachers should not ever give their students any reason to believe that any class is a waste of time or is unnecessary.  School is important.  Learning is important.  Every day counts.  We have to show our students that this is true by our actions in class.  We want students who want to go to school every day, because every day of school is important.


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