Friday, November 2, 2012


So I'm about to spend the morning working on school work. Grading. Preparing. Trying to stay motivated after a week of idleness.

But on such a morning, it's impossible to not get a bit rueful about the cost of this involuntary vacation: I'll be working a day longer this summer than I would otherwise have to.

I don't expect much sympathy. Many who aren't teachers scorn the schedule we maintain. Such individuals look at our eight- to eleven-week vacation in the summer as a luxury or something undeserved. Long ago I came to the realization that though there is a lot of time off as a teacher, it comes with the cost of rigidity. There's not much choice in what days I choose to not work. Vacations in the cooler months are simply not an option.

Okay, let me get to my point. I'm frustrated that I'll likely have to work a week or more longer than I otherwise would due to this one-week outage. I'm not begrudging the decision to close the schools for a whole week (I think that was outside the hands of my administrators). What aggravates me is the lack of options we have as a school system to make up these days.

We'll return Monday, but then be out Tuesday for election day. Then we teach two more days until students are dismissed early Friday. We teach a week. Then we're off a whole week for Thanksgiving (teachers report three of those days): students enjoy the whole week to make time for two days of conferences. At the end of January we'll have a long (five-day) weekend, though teachers work all those days students get three days off.

We could more successfully recover from this week-long interruption if we could more flexibly use those days. Does the district really need to block out three whole days a year for conferences? Or could we make do with four half-days for conferences? Must we really shut down the whole school system because a general election is taking place Tuesday? Is the community really unable to switch out teacher work days for student days if the announcement is make ten weeks in advance? Must teachers report for work any day they work? Can we not tolerate some work-from-home system on days when students aren't in session?

Schools have become increasingly reactive, so afraid of something wrong that might occur that we handcuff ourselves, preventing the flexibility that would help us better weather this week-long interruption. The cost of this week away from work will be longer penetration into the summer, both for students and teachers. Isn't it a shame we can't mitigate that cost with some creative scheduling?

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