Friday, 13 April 2012

On holidays, not much is as it seems

First of all, my apologies for my tardiness in posting as of late. The last two weeks has been term one holidays in most Australian states and I took my own holiday to Queensland for some theme park and beach revitalisation. It was absolutely amazing, which led to me the reflection topic of holidays. Prior to their commencement, I ran a persuasive writing lesson with a grade three class in which I was volunteering. The topic was good and bad things about holidays. Both the students' answers and some of the informal discussions I had with children on the eve of the Easter holidays caused me to change and broaden my view on the nature of school breaks and what they represent to the average classroom of children.

Just like all schools are diverse, I learnt that holidays mean different things for each child. While most children - and a fair amount of teachers - celebrate that holidays for them are a time for sleep-ins and lazy mornings, one student listed as a negative for her holidays that she has to wake up at 5.30am. Leaving school at 5.30pm one night, I had coincidentally discovered that both this student's parents were cleaners and, thus, the explanation that holidays for her meant waking up at the crack of dawn, or prior thereto.

For some children, holidays can be dead boring. One student, who answered that one bad thing about holidays is "boring days", sparked memories of my own childhood days of dullness spent in front of the TV or pacing back and forth, avoiding the lines between the kitchen tiles as a game, while moaning "I'm bored..." I had forgotten the lack of freedom that is inherent in being a kid and that there is no time that this is more apparent and more frustrating than on holidays. Kids can't simply pick themselves up and exclaim "I'll go swimming today" or "I'll go to Queensland this holidays", and we - as adults - often forget that when we think about our own attitude towards the holidays.

On the same strand, one child excitedly told me his holiday plans with his highlight to be attending a football match with his father and new step-mother. For me, going to the footy is hardly a holiday highlight as opposed to a weekly or fortnightly hobby, but for this child it was to be the most riveting moment of his entire 16 days off. That difference highlighted to me the variety of student backgrounds and world views in my classrooms and that I need to be more mindful of that diversity when I think about why a student has a certain pattern of behaviour or outlook on life.

For other children, it may seem on the surface that holidays are spectacular but a deeper exploration reveals a darker tale. Josh Stumpenhorst elaborated on this extensively in his post entitled Holiday Break Sucks over the Christmas break. I observed this first-hand when in line at Wet 'n' Wild, my favourite water park. Behind me in a rather lengthy line, I could not help but to overhear the forthright conversation of a young (10 or so year old) boy with a 25 or so year old female. They seemed to be cousins or an aunty and nephew who were holidaying with the boy's mother and a few other relatives. Their conversation made it more than evident that the entire time they had spent on vacation on the Gold Coast was full of nothing more than bitter bickering, which one anecdote the boy spoke of confirmed had often led to embarrassment as other people at restaurants would laugh at their dysfunctional family. I'm sure this boy's teacher would have said, having heard his holiday plans, "Oh, how lucky you are!" How wrong his teacher would have been.

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