Waning days, shrinking classes
This is a guest post from The Sun's multimedia editor, Mary Hartney:
Today was my last day at a city elementary school, which I visited an hour a week to either read to third-graders or be read to (depending on the kids' moods) as part of a volunteering program.
And though I was delighted at the cards the kids had written and decorated for me today as a goodbye (including a heart-shaped one from the classroom bully), I was mostly struck by how sleepy the school was. The parking lot was half-full, the middle-schoolers were wandering around aimlessly and my classroom had five kids in it. Five! Out of, oh, 20-something. It was hot, but that can't be the reason: The classroom had better air-conditioning than my apartment. The teacher told me the group of students had dwindled down slowly each day, to today's pathetic number. And what can she really do?
Maybe it's because my parents never let us off the hook with school and we attended every day until the end (which, to be honest, at the time I thought was unfair), but I believe if school's in session, kids should go. Parents have to be responsible for making sure their children attend, but teachers and administrators have to provide a reason for school to be in session. Half-days mean movies, coloring books and cleaning blackboards. I certainly don't think kids need any more tests to bring them in, but there's no reason school can't be school until the end.
It feels like a wicked cycle, like the "Field of Dreams" line, "If you build it, they will come." If you teach them, they will come. If you don't teach, they have no incentive to come, and there won't be a critical mass of kids and a reason to teach. Surely someone can break this cycle.
I get that kids need a break from what we demand of them; they need field days and recess and plays. Teachers, too. But just skipping out on school days because everyone else does it seems counterintuitive.
Today was only Tuesday. How many kids will there be on Friday?