Another dot in the blogosphere?

Give them a break

Posted on: April 22, 2020

Let’s not kid ourselves — school vacations are not guaranteed breaks, particularly for teachers.

We have four breaks in the mainstream Singapore schooling system (primary, secondary, junior college): Two one-week breaks (in March and September), a roughly four-week mid-year break in June, and long-ish break in November and December. The number of weeks in the last break varies by schooling group.

But the breaks earlier in the year are easily swallowed by school activities, e.g., remedials, chaperoned visits and trips, planning for the next term, exam preparation, etc. It is all too easy for a four-week June break shrink to just two weeks.

The COVID-19 “circuit breaker” has been extended by a month and the June school break is now in May. This means that home-based learning (HBL) — our version of emergency remote teaching — ends on schedule (4 May) instead of carrying on until June.

In theory, this will give teachers time to prepare for another possible round of HBL if we do not get our COVID-19 cases down as a country. Most teachers might also welcome an earlier break given how they were thrown into the maw of HBL. But other teachers will not have it as easy.

Our education minister shared his thoughts on Facebook. He acknowledged the longer than normal school Term 3 in June and rationalised the need for an additional break. Fair enough. Then there was this:

If you are teacher in charge of a critical cohort, e.g., students taking their PSLE or GCEs, you may need to work through the brought-forward break and then continue with the extended term when it resumes in June.

If you do not think that teachers already have a lot on their plates, consider what this might do to already frayed nerves. As they support their students, who will support these teachers? An education minister sets policy and it is left to school leaders and managers to enact this. Will the latter group empathise by first remembering what it was like to be pushed around by policy?

We can rationalise our national “circuit breaker” and make sacrifices, but we also thank and take care of those in the front line. An unintended effect of the extended “circuit breaker” might short-circuit some teachers. These are the same ones who do not ask to be thanked. They just want their leaders to take care of them too.

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