The Half Day Grind

Half days. The bain of most parents existence. And the month of June is FILLED with them. And always the last week of school.

Erika Sanzi, my partner in crime on the Planet Mom Radio podcast have actually talked about this many times. Our children only get 180 days per year in the classroom. (And boy, do they do their best to ensure not ONE EXTRA MOMENT over what is required is completed.) Are they actually getting 180 days worth of education?
NOPE.
Half days are a perfect example of how we put the wants and negotiated perks of adults ahead of the NEEDS of children. And frankly the families we are just soooooooooo concerned about reaching in our communities.
But it’s not like June is the only month filled with half days. It’s now negotiated into many teachers union contracts that they must have the last full day before school day before scheduled school vacations as a half day. You know, to "get ready" for vacation.
What?
Between the unnecessary and antiquated school year schedule, school vacations that we continue to have in February and April out of "tradition" with little other rationale, all the days off we have to take to stop and do professional development in the middle of the school year, (instead of during the summer when teachers can’t POSSIBLY be doing anything other than having their vacation) the half days we have to take to "get ready" for taking a week off and Fridays turning into "movie day" in the classroom — I just have one question:
WHEN IS MY CHILD ACTUALLY LEARNING?
Seriously, we are wondering why we have so many problems getting our children to read at grade level and demonstrate proficiency in science, I think I can point you in the right direction. The Boston Globe talked to parents in Boston today, but honestly, it’s an epidemic in districts across the country:
“They’re not even doing anything,” said Erin Manning, the mother of three Condon students.
Manning’s children, along with others interviewed, reported spending the morning coloring, playing, and engaged in other nonacademic pursuits. To pick up her children from school, Manning said that she will have to leave work over two hours early on both days. 
Jennifer Davis, the grandmother of a first-grader, also had to miss work to manage the new pickup time. 
“I have a set work schedule, and I had to rearrange it,” Davis said. “It’s silly, these two days did a lot of damage, we could have ended earlier, and now the traffic is unreal.”
But for the outgoing president of the Boston Teachers Union? Let us eat cake:
Richard Stutman, the longtime president of the Boston Teachers Union, agreed that teachers like the half days, and he said they were not a cause for concern.
“I honestly didn’t care what my daughter did the last week of school,” Stutman said. “Kids take the opportunity to get out early and go visit former teachers. Psychologically, they know it’s coming to an end.”

Oh, the teachers like them? I guess that’s the most important thing we should consider, right? Not the kids. Not the families.
You don’t speak for all of us, Richard.
My five and nine year old are not going to visit their old teachers to relive memories of years gone by. 
So on top of the lost learning time, once again, teachers seem to be disconnected with the reality.
You see most parents have to actually, you know, like — WORK FOR A LIVING. At a job that requires them to stay until 5pm. Monday through Friday. We don’t have cushy union contracts that only allow us to work 180 days a year and have 20 days of paid time off. That’s just not the reality of what parents deal with — especially in our low income communities.

So let me explain to you how this works for a working parent when school is out:
1) Remember that this random day is a half day because of ridiculous reason x.
2) Sheepishly ask boss for time off from the schedule. "Really, AGAIN?"
3) Boss says no — don’t work, don’t get paid.
4) Scramble to find child care to cover random half day. Beg relatives, friends and family to pick up the kids to not get in trouble at work and not have to lose and entire days worth of pay (which is a BIG DEAL) to pay for child care.
5) End up paying someone to watch your child during the half days — which actually works out to you paying the exact same amount to a baby sitter/after school program that you would have made that day, but hopefully your boss won’t get angry at you for not physically being there, throwing your financial stability and therefore the stability of your entire household into jeopardy.
But when you truly do not understand the lives of the people in the communities where you are serving and educating children, it’s easy to make stupid decisions like, "Let’s do a bunch of half days for the kids!" without a second thought.
And all of this is actually connected to the real breakdown in the relationships and trust between parents, teachers and the school systems. Things like this are life and death for parents — and show a clear lack of understanding about the struggles we go through as single parents, low income families and real people. The school system has all the control, they get to dictate what happens and do so with little parent input at all. Their only concern is what has to be negotiated with the teachers union to make them happy.
So the fundamental break down with parent relationships starts here. Oh, and with transportation. And uniforms. And all of the other little things that get rammed down the throats of parents with the same "let them eat cake" attitude because it’s something small and in significant in the "scheme of things."
For parents, these things aren’t so small.    
What do you think?

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