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We've all had that phone call from a parent ... "My child is going to be away from school today, can I please come by and get the work they will be missing." In fact, as I'm typing this post, I can hear my administrative assistant fielding several calls along those lines. And it wasn't until a staff member came into my office after getting one of these requests, that I realized how far we still have to go when it comes to sharing with parents how much learning in the classroom in which that learning takes place has changed in the past 5 - 10 years.
When I was a kid, being away usually meant that my younger brother would be bringing home a file folder, labelled "While You Were Away" that was full of worksheets that needed to be completed. In addition, there was usually a couple textbooks that were attached (which my brother hated carrying) with yellow Post-it notes letting me know what pages to read and what questions to answer. I would diligently complete as much as I could (since I could never play outside after a day of missing school anyway) and with any luck, would return the next day being right where the class left off.
Fast forward to today, where learning in the classroom has moved far beyond worksheets and textbooks. Now don't get me wrong, there is still a place for those forms of learning, but few would argue that learning today is a much more dynamic, interactive, collaborative and social process. If one could be a fly on the wall in today's classroom, they would see students learning math concepts, grammar and social responsibility all during a 30 minute calendar time on the carpet. They would see an in-depth conversation among middle school students about what social in-justice looks like around the globe, complete with online and textual research, Skyping with other classes and group role playing games to help model the experience. They would see a senior writing class not only peer editing their writing, but also getting feedback on its content from their younger buddy class as well as the larger global community through an interactive blog. And these are only a few examples.
And in knowing all that, it begs the question ... how is it possible for a parent to "pick up what was missed" when their child is sick. Are there ways for children to be learning at home? No question about it. And are there ways for learning to be connected between school and home? In this day and age, I would argue absolutely. But hopefully, gone are the days when a student misses a day of school and is able to make it up by simply finishing what is in the "While You Were Away" folder. Learning in the classroom has come a long way. And with these changes in what school and learning looks like for our students, comes the need for teachers to change how they compensate for a child being away. But also what needs to be adjusted is a parent's expectation that picking up the "work that was missed" will in anyway replicate the learning that happens during the day at school.