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“You Mean I Actually Have to Do the Make Up Work?”

Confessions of a Secondary School Teacher: Part V

Elizabeth Wilks
3 min readOct 18, 2020

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During the fall months, my students found it necessary to miss up to a week of school. It was the height of hunting season. I couldn’t understand this need but then again, I grew up in the city. We didn’t go hunting. Or at least, my family didn’t.

Students would come brandishing the salmon colored paper I was supposed to sign like it was the golden ticket for Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Most students didn’t care about missing work. It didn’t matter what I wrote on their ticket, they weren’t going to worry about school until they got back.

Parents were a different story.

I can’t tell you how many times I had mothers calling me asking if their student could afford to miss school for a week. Not even the best of students can really afford to miss school for a week and trust me, it was not the best students looking for an escape. Still, I was supposed to reassure them that their precious child would easily be caught up.

Parents always wanted the work their child was going to miss upfront which made it difficult when I was planning day by day. I understood their reasoning. They didn’t want their child to fall behind, but parents rarely followed through, and their child would still have their pile of work to do once they returned to school.

Some students had a different tactic.

One such student was T. T was a decent student. He could get away with Cs without much effort. He played sports, had a girlfriend, and was pretty much liked by everyone. T’s problem was that he was very hot and cold. He would like you one minute and hate you the next. His mood could give you whiplash, but overall he was a great kid.

T left for a week long hunting trip that was approved by his mother. At this point in my teaching career, I had given up on homework but expected kids to complete the classwork. So, it was a big surprise when T came back and handed me a stack of crumpled papers. When I asked him what it was, he told me that it was his “homework.” He claimed his mom had told him to write about his experience hunting and that would fill in for all the work he had missed.

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Elizabeth Wilks

When she’s not writing at the coffee shop, cuddling with her cat, or watching bad reality television, you can find her traveling to new and familiar places.