Sick Days and Life Long Learners: the power of connecting

22 01 2013

Remember back in the 90’s when we started hearing about “working from home” and “telecommuting” and we all began fantasizing about being able to do our jobs while at home in our PJ’s? It was advertised as a great way to live for people escaping the rat-race of the big city to the calms of rural life. It was advertised as a great way for stay-at-home moms to have it all (which, in actuality, doesn’t always work). As we saw these articles in magazines (back in the print era), we drooled about how awesome that lifestyle might be, dressing for business meetings only from the waist up. Or was that just me doing that dreaming?

But sadly, as a teacher, I knew the reality was that I’d never be able to have that lifestyle. That telecommuting was only going to be for the Yuppies who already had made their chops in the big city, had already accumulated a giant financial nest-egg, and were just one step from retiring. No way was a teacher ever going to get that. Besides, we work with kids all day! While I coveted that lifestyle, I knew that it was probably just for a few, and likely just a fad anyway. My sour grapes had me believing that it couldn’t last.

Fast-forward a couple decades.

I awoke today to a really sore throat and a wet, gross-sounding cough. Other than the sore throat, I feel fine and want to go into work today, but if I was sitting next to a colleague who sounded like me, I’d be disgusted and none too pleased that she was sharing her crud with me. YUK! But it looks like all my meetings today are virtual anyway, where I’m connecting with folks across the country via Skype, so a work-from-home day it is! Wait. A work-from-home day? flashback moment

See, sometimes we don’t feel sick but are still contagious. And in order to keep from spreading the flu or strep throat, or the hundreds of other wintertime nastiness, we just need to be away from others…at the sacrifice of our work, be it adult work or school work.

See, back in 2006-2011, in my school (Turning Point Learning Center), we gave kids this work-from-home option when they were sick and many took advantage. They were working on projects and wanted to stay connected with friends and their work. And they did work and didn’t fall behind. And they weren’t Yuppies. Heck, even some teachers might stay home, but Skype in with the kids, via the substitute, and still “teach” classes. We didn’t count those as days off at all, either. They were still working, both staff and students. And we didn’t call it telecommuting. We called it working from home.

So do you extend this option to your students? Or would your kids even want to stay connected with their classes? Because when I talk about how we never took snow days off school, I’ve had more than one teacher scoff. When questioned deeper, they say their kids would never want to attend school if they didn’t have to.

If your kids don’t want to attend your classes, why do you think that is? Is it laziness on their part? Is it something wrong with them? Or their parents? or the neighborhood? Or is it something wrong with the class? or … what? Just what is it that we’re relying on as the excuse for why they’re not interested in staying connected? Because if we’re truly preparing kids to be life-long learners, is this just a by-product hope-and-prayer for all students who graduate? or is it something we’re actively working on everyday in every class?

If your kids don’t want to stay connected to school…to learning when they’re not there, I’m thinking there’s something that might need shifted in the culture of what learning looks like at your school.

Because the option of working from the comfort of home is no longer relegated to the Yuppies, the well-off, the super-geeky. It can be done by High Schoolers. by Middle Schoolers. By Elementary Students (with supervision and help). And we should exercise working from home as a true option, which might help us to more clearly reflect upon whether or not we truly are creating life-long learners.

**incidentally and for the official record: sometimes students are truly sick and feel terrible. If that’s the case then they should rest, sleep, and turn off school. I would never advocate a student (or teacher or anyone) working from home on a sick day if they feel terrible. There’s a reason we have sick days. Take them.

A couple of great tools to use with students staying connected at school:
Google + Hangouts




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