Teachers have differing opinions on senior ditch day

May 23, 2019 — by Kaylene Morrison

As the second morning bell rang on May 24 last year, five out of the 15 or so seniors and juniors in engineering and physics teacher Mathew Welander’s physics class began working on various assignments. Though a majority of the missing seniors had called in sick, they were not absent due to an illness. It was senior ditch day.

Over the past few decades, the tradition of senior ditch day has become ingrained into schools around the nation. Each year, millions of high school seniors skip a day of school in May or early June and spend that day relaxing with friends at fun destinations like the beach.

At Saratoga High, teachers have differing opinions on this tradition. While some teachers ensure that they do not assign work due on senior ditch day, other teachers purposely schedule tests for this day if they learn about it in advance.

U.S. Government and Media Arts Program teacher Mike Davey opposes students skipping school on senior ditch day. As a parent, he has not excused his children from school on senior ditch day, allowing them to instead deal with the consequences if they chose to skip, and as a teacher, he strongly discourages his students from ditching.

“To me, [ditching] shows entitlement amongst students, where ‘We don’t need to do this, and we’re thrilled we don’t need to learn,’” Davey said.

Last year, Davey taught personal finance on senior ditch day, knowing that students who chose to skip would miss out on learning valuable life skills. He viewed this lesson as a more worthwhile reason to not participate in senior ditch day than a test.

“The point of school is not to get the grades or to go to college,” Davey said. “The point of going to school is to learn and be prepared for society. Every day you miss, you miss something that’s beneficial and worthwhile.”

Years ago, the administration moved finals for senior classes to the week before the designated finals week to decrease the percentage of seniors who cut class on senior ditch day. With the extra week to do essentially nothing school-related before graduation, Davey thinks that taking an extra day off would be ridiculous.

According to him, only around 10 percent of his seniors skip class each year; however, some still choose to cut.

“That’s their consequences. That’s their choice. I’m not a big fan of parents lying for students and saying my kid’s sick that day,” Davey said.

Physics teacher Kirk Davis, on the other hand, believes that senior ditch day is understandable and perhaps even acceptable as long as students act responsibly.

As a senior in high school living in Wyoming, Davis spent his senior ditch day relaxing with friends near his hometown.

“We went up to this little mountain behind town and hiked around, and I think we were bored by noon,” he said.

Partially because he participated in the tradition, Davis understands the reasons for skipping school on ditch day. Because of this, he does not try to deter seniors from cutting his classes and estimates that around 60 to 75 percent of his seniors cut class.

“I’m not going to accommodate it, but I’m not going to give a quiz or a test,” Davis said. “Not a lot of makeups. Some teachers I know kind of do that. And for our AP classes, we’re done with curriculum anyway.”

Like Davis, Welander has not tried to go out of his way to penalize seniors who ditch that day; he recognizes that the seniors at this time of the year are focused on life beyond high school.

“My policy works out where the scheduled ditch day is going to happen on a work day for us, so it’s the day students will have time to work on their final projects and get help from me,” he said. “So if they choose to miss that, at least there’s no makeup work that they have to deal with.”

Like Welander, Davis does not try to prevent seniors from ditching his class partially because he is aware of the futility of this endeavor, as grades do not really impact seniors all that much by the end of May.

“It’s going to happen and frankly, what are you gonna do, right?” he said. “It’s kind of a rite of passage in a way, and as long as kids don’t get up to something unhealthy, I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”

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