Christian Parenting Blog

Working With Your Child’s Teachers About Absences for the Biblical Festivals

Teacher smiling and gesturingNot long after school starts in many areas, Church of God members begin preparing for the biblical Feast of Tabernacles. This means it’s time to talk with your child’s teachers about arranging to handle schoolwork missed during absences for God’s festivals.

As a student, mother and teacher, I’ve had experience over the years asking for time off for the Feast of Tabernacles and other holy days. Our family began observing God’s festivals when I was 12. Some teachers accommodated us without the bat of an eye, while others seemed to feel they held the key to whether we went or not.

We can do our best to present the request well. We cannot control how the other person feels and acts, but we can control how we feel and react.

Put yourself in the teacher’s shoes

It can be helpful to put yourself in the teacher’s shoes. Teachers have guidelines and regulations, meetings, endless repetitious paperwork, workshops, homework, tests—and many have their own kids in school.

One consideration teachers have to face each year is their formal evaluation. This is where a teacher is evaluated by administrators and performs a self-evaluation.

One question teachers must consider every year is how they handle tardies and absences. Schools (like businesses) operate on money and are only compensated when students are at school or have an excused absence. So part of the burden is placed on the teacher, who has a part in setting the stage for a student wanting or not wanting to be at school.

The teacher must evaluate how his or her methods worked last year and set new goals for the new year. So realize that the person you must talk to is keenly aware of the school’s budget crunch, is trying to decrease tardies and absentees and has a lot of other stuff going on, just like you.

Tips for approaching the teacher

Here are some helpful suggestions you might consider when you approach the teacher about days off:

  • First, think about your own “policy” about tardies and absences. Is your thinking on target or could it use some improvement? Your track record speaks volumes before you ever approach the teacher about taking your child out of school.
  • Pray for God’s guidance for the meeting. God is your No. 1 ally.
  • Do not wait until the last minute to ask for these days off. Write a note or call about setting up a conference. If possible, the conference should not be only about the days off. At the conference you can:
    • Let the teacher know what your child likes about his or her class and him or her.
    • Ask how things are going. If the teacher presents a problem your child is having, ask for (or give, if you have encountered this situation before) suggestions about what has worked in the past. Thank the teacher and reassure him or her you will do whatever you can to help.
    • Tell the teacher about the days your child needs to be out of school. Keep the justification short and factual. You may want to bring a letter from your pastor. If the teacher has questions, answer them as you would any question about your faith.
    • Give a written list of the days your child will be absent. (Texas allows one travel day before and after, if travel is necessary.)
    • Ask the teacher how he or she would like to handle make-up work and the specific time frame involved. If you have a preference—like taking the work with you to the Feast—ask if it is possible to get the work ahead of time. Some teachers can do that with ease and others (like me) would prefer to do the make-up work after the student returns. I like to send reading material and routine homework assignments but do not want to burden families with pages of drill and practice the class might not even wind up doing.
    • End on a positive note. Keep it to about 10 minutes or so unless the teacher indicates he or she wants to spend more time in the discussion. Teachers have a life just like you.
    • Thank the teacher for his or her time.
  • You might want to have your child keep a travel journal with pictures of your travels and daily routine, including the time spent in an educational setting (church, museums, nature trips, etc.) and a note of thanks for the teacher’s dedication. This way the teacher will see that this is not frivolous time away from school.
  • Talk to your child about questions others might ask him or her about the absence. If your child just replies, “I had so much fun,” others may not get a correct picture.

No-nos:

  • Realize the teacher does not want to be boxed into a corner any more than you do, so when you have a choice, give the teacher a choice. The dates of the festivals are nonnegotiable, but how to handle make-up work is flexible.
  • Make sure the homework is turned in within the requested time frame.
  • Don’t forget to send a note regarding the absence after you return. The schools I have worked at keep detailed documentation (state required) for absences. Having to remind parents about this documentation is tiresome.

Members of the Church of God look forward to the Feast of Tabernacles with great anticipation. Taking a little time to consider how to handle this absence will pay off richly.

Susan and Tony SmithReading the following might also help with the process of asking for time off for the Feast:

Susan Scott Smith has been a teacher for more than 20 years and is a member of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in Texas.

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