My name is Shterna Gordon. I am a sophomore at Burr and Burton Academy and I am writing this from my personal experience.
I am sure you are all familiar with the question that creeps up in classes around the holidays or at the beginning or end of school breaks. The question which is asked over and over by different teachers and in different ways seems innocent enough. The question is in some form of “where are you going for the holidays?”
The question makes the assumption that everyone is going somewhere or if they aren’t it is just because they aren’t going anywhere this time. When in reality the students who say nowhere may very likely be unable to go on vacation because their family can’t afford it.
I have been on the receiving end of this kind of question many times by many teachers. What is even worse than being asked this question is being asked it in front of all my classmates. I have to find an excuse every time to try and hide the fact that I don’t go on vacation.
When I was a kid we would drive a few hours to a place nearby like a hotel or my grandparents. However, this only happened like three times. I have no recollection of ever flying to go on vacation or staying anywhere that most kids would call a vacation.
Which leads me to another question that is embarrassing: What was your favorite trip your family went on? This question assumes that everyone has one or more places in their memory to choose from.
With these questions, I always feel embarrassed as I say nowhere or nothing or trying to list the small things we will do as my classmates list all these different places.
These questions are often used as quizzes or some other kind of assignment and then graded so that if someone doesn’t answer it hurts their grade. This is immoral to put students through. Even if it doesn’t count as a grade it is embarrassing not to answer as you feel your classmates will know why you don’t want to.
As you are reading this you might be thinking “well why don’t we excuse students if it’s written and only the teacher is seeing them anyway?” However, that is not the point: teachers don’t know which students face these issues because students are embarrassed by it and hide it. I hide the fact that while I have a lot in life I just can’t compare to my classmate’s level of money. All their life it’s questions like these that make disadvantaged students feel embarrassed.
So I ask that that BBA and all of our local schools think about their students and instead of asking where you are going on vacation or where are you going for the holidays which suggests an assumption that you can go somewhere; you ask instead something like so what are you looking forward to for the holidays or what are you excited about for the summer. This is open-ended and allows kids who aren’t going on vacation to still share what they are excited about doing instead of making them feel like they can’t compare and feel like any plans they have are nothing compared to their classmates.