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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Ross Rambles: Time on task

Monday, May 2, 2005

Recently, I saw a debate on an early morning news show over whether the 'take your daughter or son to work day' is an appropriate activity during the school year.

A superintendent of a school district contended that the activity would be more appropriate during the summer months when school is not in session.

An organizer of the event asserted that it is an educational event most appropriately done in the context of the school week, or words to that erroneous effect. By the way, the organizer explained that the day had originally been 'take your daughter to work day', apparently in order to teach girls that there is a alternative to a life of domestic drudgery - a life of workplace drudgery with domestic drudgery reserved as an after-work activity.

Starting in 2003, boys were included so that they too could have the intellectually enriching experience of spending eight hours watching mom or dad making telemarketing calls.

The superintendent used an interesting phrase for what professional educators feel needs to be done during the school day. The phrase 'time on task' was used to describe the time not only spent in attendance but also actually in academic study.

It seems strange that a euphemism is needed for learning subject matter because that is only part of what is done during the school day. Of course, there always have been distractions in the classroom and there have always been excused absences for non-academic activities, but that 'time off task' seems to have expanded.

I'm not a big fan of Ecofest or clean-up day activities at area schools. Fortunately, the Cherokee District now alternates yearly between middle school and high school so that not all of the students at those grade levels miss a full day of school every year.

Why not have Scouts, church youth groups and other civic organizations participate in an annual event on a Saturday. Not all middle school and high school kids would participate, even every other year, but from what I understand, not all of them do now. There are those who take the clean up tasks seriously and others who goof off.

Community clean up can be an educational experience but not the kind of educational experience that schools were designed to provide. At least the Ecofest is now held on one of the early out days for in-service.

Which brings up the subject of early outs or late starts, which don't have to be made up to meet the district's requirement for the 180 minimum days of school, so they aren't. There should be a minimum amount of 'time on task' during the school year.

Such events as 'take your daughter or son to work day' should not be considered an excused absence. It's an elitist concept thought up by people in select occupations in which it is possible.

In all the occupations I've worked at, (I've had several) I can't think of any at which it would be appropriate to have a child with me for a full work day, particularly below high school age. Either the child would be an unacceptable distraction, the child would experience unbearable tedium, the child would be in an unsafe environment or some combination of these.

There are a lot of worthwhile, enriching experiences that parents and other adults can provide for children. During the school day, the focus of these experiences should be on academic subjects.