Missing School SOL#17

Slice of life

One of the interesting parts about being an international teacher is that my students are very international! Many of them are dual citizens and have family homes in other countries.  Many of them extend school holidays so they can be sure to spend as much time as possible with their family members abroad. As a teacher this can cause a few problems in the classroom.  As a global citizen I can see the importance of international travel for children of any age.  How to find the balance?

Admin always asks us to send as much school work that they would be missing as we can. This way, students who miss school wont have to struggle to do new work and complete missing work once they come back.  The problem is that this work we send only gets done half the time…or less.

I assign things like: read the chapter book your lit circle is reading while you are gone and choose your ten favorite new words to write definitions for. Or, play the Front Row app to work on a certain Common Core Math standards (I can get data and see how well they do on various problems). Or, since we have been studying Black History for the past few weeks, write a mini biography book about a chosen person in black history.  Even basic math worksheets aren’t getting done! These things which seem to be very portable, and easily done, especially with the help of adults or the internet, do not always get done while they are traveling. What do we do about it?

I get it too! I don’t like to lesson plan while I’m on vacation either! However, if I had something due the week after vacation, you better bet that I would have it done on time.

If my students were older I would try flipping the classroom. I don’t have too much hope for flipping when things like Front Row, which is a gamified math practice doesn’t work for them.  How do other teachers deal with students who take time off to travel (or are away from school for whatever reason) for an extra week, two weeks, a month, or an entire quarter?

Most of the time, we give the student extra days to make up the work once they get back and try to catch them up. I send them with videos to watch at home and resend the work that I already sent with them. However, I feel like nothing can really make up for the time they lost in class unless they have a highly qualified tutor working one on one with them.

I think international travel is the best thing!  In fact, I have read several blogs and articles about families who home school their children and travel the world. That is so ridiculously amazing! Anyone can learn so much from a simple trip to another country, but how do you balance this great opportunity with schooling that their families are paying so much for?

Please comment! Are there any teachers or parents out there with a little insight? How would you handle frequent or a large number of absences due to travel? 


10 responses to “Missing School SOL#17

  1. Such an interesting topic. I love that we have such a global society if you will. This is becoming a topic I think more and more about every year. It is not uncommon for a couple of students to miss 2-3 weeks of school because they are traveling. I always send the work I can. I also let them travel because they are in first grade and need to be with their families too. Meaning, I don’t stress too much about homework. So far, none of them have really “needed” to do my homework, so we can catch up when they return. I wonder if there was an upper-grade teacher who experienced this and what they would do. Thanks for sharing!


  2. I’m not sure I have great advice – I live in a district right here in the US, and I have a lot of students who travel while school is in session. I can’t help but be frustrated sometimes since we have plenty of built-in breaks. I, too, think travel is so beneficial and a great learning experience….but couldn’t they do it over the summer, the 2-week winter break, or the 1-week spring break?! Ugh. It’s also hard to gather the exact work together that we end up doing the days they are gone. Sometimes I change plans, sometimes I add work or don’t get as much done as I think I’m going to – it never quite works out. Technology seems like a great idea, but even that seems to get messed up. After all is said and done, maybe just the good ole fashioned travel journal works best and exclude them from anything they missed. See- no magic answers from me! 😦


    • I love the idea of a travel journal, and I can see how it would work for some standards (such as expository writing), but it is a stretch for many other standards. It is especially important (at my school) that the student demonstrates mastery of certain common core standards because we have a standards based report card. For example for reading they need to be able to recount story elements of setting, characters, problem, events, etc.. They do this during lit circles out loud, but they also do it in writing. If someone isn’t in class during lit circles I feel like they HAVE to do some kind of written work. So I send them with the book and an assignment to identify the story elements I listed above.

      The hard part is not getting the work returned at all or significantly later than everyone else’s.


  3. I am not in an international school but I can appreciate the issue raised. There are cases of students taking longer breaks than the standard ones here (Singapore) but I have not heard of any going more than a week after. The loss in learning during the time away is made up by tutors engaged by parents for their children. If they had to go off for a long period and went beyond the maximum allowable period of absence, it would be quite impossible to be promoted to the next grade. So that is a deterrent.

    But more than that, how do the students in international school learn when they are away? Is learning the responsibility of the school or the parents in such cases?


  4. I remember that when I was in the US I couldn’t be absent from school for more than a certain number of days and still pass to the next class (unless it was medically related). Also, any work that was missed had to be made up regardless of the reason.

    You raise some good questions!


  5. We get several students who leave for Mexico each winter. At the middle school level, it’s honestly easier to just excuse them from most of the assignments they will miss. If there is a standard we will not address again, I would have some sort of an assessment piece waiting when they returned (or to be taken X number of days after returning) for accountability. That way, I can send all sorts of materials home, and it’s up to the student to decide whether or not the assignments are worth doing. Either way, I get to measure the learning!


    • I usually have assessments waiting as well. The problem is when a student misses school and therefore and entire unit. It is tough to learn without a teacher present.

      I’m obsessed with travel! I wish I could just say, Have fun. Talk to people. Eat new foods. See something new. Tell me about it when you get back.”


  6. This is a hard situation. I teach in a school in which many of our students leave at Christmas time to go to Mexico to see relatives. In middle school we just disenroll them for the time they’ll be gone. I give them what work I can muster, but it’s not what we do in class. In high school we still disenrolled them, I think, but we had to send them with work so they didn’t lose credits. By 8th grade it’s discouraged to take them out of class fo so long. I used to give kids a blank notebook and have them write a daily journal about what they see and do, and what surprised them. This sort of worked, but they get so involved that sitting down to write doesn’t always happen. It’s really a dilemma, I agree.


    • Since I work for a private international school I think they would be less likely to disenroll the traveling students… though that sounds like a great solution to me. If they are not officially a student then they are not officially missing any work.


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