One question many students are faced with as they advance in school is: when is it appropriate to miss school? We spend most of our year working tirelessly, yet so many of us feel guilty missing school for anything even remotely personal. Whether that be for a family commitment, due to illness, or heaven forbid, the infamous mental health day. I spoke to my peers to gauge their thoughts on the matter and see if we can come to any sort of agreement. Before we start, I want to say that everyone is entitled to their own opinions on the matter. I’m writing this article to hopefully relieve what I consider to be unnecessary stress.
Family Event: This was one point where I saw constantly varied opinions. Most agree that the fear here is that the amount of work and studying will build up to an unreasonable point during this absence, negating any possible enjoyment of the event. Some said that family events are not an option for them, these events are obligations. A few accounted distance into their opinions, saying they would only attend if it were close by. Others said the type of event is most important. For example, going to a funeral would be more important than going to a wedding. That thought by itself is strange to me. Why would it be more important to attend an event of suffering than an event of joy? Even though this ideal is specific, it came up enough times that I think it should be explored. I would personally hold both events to the same importance, yet the idea of having fun when there is work to be done is unacceptable to many. I can’t say that I am not guilty of thinking the same things, either. Family by itself is so important in the lives of a child, however the way we have begun thinking about our family commitments is what I would expect to see from a 30-something-year old with a high powered job.
Mildly Sick: Few plan on missing school when being mildly sick, whether that be by personal choice or by parental choice, which is ridiculous to me. Severe illness develops from mild illness. Not staying home for 1 day to recover from your nausea could lead to 3 days of unavoidable absence from vomiting. Again, I am also guilty of “fighting through it” for the sake of being in an environment for 8+ hours that could do nothing but make me feel worse. School has its purpose, to make sure its students come out educated and ready to take on life. Nowhere does it say that students should make themselves ill (or more ill) than they already were for the sake of one day, so meaningless in the grand scheme of the school year.
Very Sick: I was happy to see that many said they would stay home if they were very sick, albeit begrudgingly. It’s understood that you cannot come to school when you are contagious. It’s unfair to the kids who aren’t sick and to yourself, since will doubtless, become even more sick by pushing yourself to work for the 8 hours you should be resting.
Mentally Drained Out: Mental health days exist for a reason. We push ourselves so much, to the point where it often feels we will break, for what? For grades? For college? For parents? Either way, the stress can become unbearable and many high schoolers suffer from mild to serious mental illnesses, whether they know it or not. It’s unfair to say you can’t skip (yes, I said “skip”) a day of school to have lunch with your mom or see a movie with your older sibling visiting from college. Unfortunately, most of the people I spoke to said that this is not a valid reason to miss school. It is not considered “legitimate.” By what standard I’m not sure. I think it’s appropriate to end this section with a fact one of my friends brought up, a vast number of high schoolers have enough mental illness to put them in a circa 1950 insane asylum.
Education-Related Event (ex. Science Convention): I found the answers to this topic to be most interesting. Many people are hesitant to miss school, even if the purpose is to do something academic! That’s strange, because technically, you are going somewhere to get educated, just like school. Once again, that fear of falling behind comes up. After all, those hours you spend not in school will have to be made up at a later time, which is also supposed to be spent on schoolwork, right?
What I’m able to pull from these responses is that ideally, one should never miss school, which is unreasonable. The fear of stress and work building up prevents us from taking time for ourselves and our families. I honestly don’t know what can be done to change this mentality, maybe it’s just something that all students have to face, although I fear it goes deeper than that. We are so obsessed with school and doing well that we forget that much of our distress comes from within. No one in their right mind would tell you to sacrifice your mental health or physical health for something as temporary as school, yet that is the culture that has been created by a combination of our own fears and the stress school puts on us. Like I said at the start, everyone is entitled to their own decisions. I believe we deserve to take time whenever we reasonably need it. There’s no need to miss days on end, but if you’re not 100%, there’s no point going to school. Yes, there will be work to make up. Yes, you will feel stressed. I guess we all just have to weigh whether it’s more important to physically be in school to get our work, while pushing ourselves beyond reasonable limits or to understand personal needs. Our stigma around this won’t change anytime soon, so the least we can all do for ourselves is really scrutinize our view on the matter and whether it is healthy from an objective standard, not a “Millburn standard.”