Question: How do you handle teacher absence or tardiness?
What is your attendance policy? How do you handle tardiness? I'm in a tough situation with a friend who has missed the maximum number of meetings allowed by our attendance policy. She and her children have also been tardy several times. This is awkward because we're actually very good friends. This has put me in a tough situation.
This is one of the most difficult situations to face as a co-op leader. In fact, this is the situation that often necessitates the change from a free co-op to one that charges a nominal tuition. Co-op leaders find that families who don't have any "skin in the game" can take co-op for granted, often arriving late or not arriving at all, with little to no notice. Other parents then must pick up the slack for the absent parents, which is frustrating because they have no time to prepare and feel rushed and forced. It is not good when this causes resentment between friends, and co-ops are full of good friends! Steps should be taken early on to help people create and enforce boundaries and feel a sense of obligation to their commitments. This is why gyms, even church gyms, charge membership fees, so that people will feel - at least in their wallets - that there is an obligation to attend.
We charge a nominal amount of tuition to attend co-op. There is a base price per child and then each additional child adds a small amount. The average per hour is around $1, which is very doable even for large families. The value of the feast the children receive in exchange is much greater than the cost. We also charge an annual registration fee to cover overhead and a facility fee to give an honorarium to our host church (we do not pay rent).
To make it even more affordable and show appreciation to those who take on leadership roles, those who teach in the co-op gets a tuition break. They are NOT paid. In exchange for the number of classes they teach, they get a reduction in tuition. In many, many cases, this means that a parent is not paying anything at all (other than registration) for her child(ren) to attend. She is doing the planning, preparation and laying out of the feast, so for her time and effort, she pays less or not at all. Other parents who do not teach but do volunteer also get a break but a smaller break than teachers. Those parents who are not able to help teach or volunteer pay full price. Falling in that latter group are mothers of 0-3 year olds for whom we have no classes; they prize the time they have at home with their littles. This has worked out very well for four years.
When we experienced some teachers not showing up to co-op, we had to have some measures in place to "encourage" them to form or maintain good habits. Natural consequences if you will. We have a teacher absence policy that allows absences in case of emergency or sickness, two per term. If they are out, they have to send all class prep to the class volunteer or another teacher, who fills in. If there are additional absences, this affects their tuition discount. Here is the excerpt of that policy:
"Currently, teachers and volunteers are recompensed for the time and effort it requires to plan and provide a class by a tuition credit on each monthly invoice. When a teacher or volunteer is unable to attend to their class, substitutes must be arranged and there is often an associated impact on curriculum content or classroom management. When at all possible, it is helpful to arrange doctor's appointments, vacation or other appointments on non-school days. Emergencies are understood. The Board believes that two absences, planned or unplanned, is a reasonable accommodation. However, if a teacher or volunteer misses more than 2 sessions out of a term, 1/3 of the tuition credit for that term will be removed from the next invoice. If the absences occur in the last month of school, the teacher or volunteer will be sent an invoice for the 1/3 term credit."
See our Parent Handbook for more details: http://www.charlottemasonincommunity.com/parent-handbook.html
This brings up a related subject - a Board. You as leaders may be suffering personally because you are making all the decisions, responsible for all the hard discussions with your friends, and bearing the brunt of frustration from other parents. You need protection. Protection comes from having a smaller group of people within the community who make the decisions so that it doesn't all rest on your shoulders. Hands down, the best thing we ever did was form a Board. Now I don't say, "I decided...." I say, "The Board decided...." If people want to get upset, they take their issues to the Board, not me. This will preserve friendships.
The most challenging part of a CM co-op is that CM is a RELATIONAL education. So by definition, we feel that we should be in right relationship all the time. That is so difficult when we are dealing with fallen humans in a fallen world. We should ask co-op members to pray for leadership and the community, and those in leadership should in turn pray for wisdom, pray for the families involved, and pray for every day and detail that goes in to spreading the feast.
I live with my husband and three children in the beautiful bluegrass region of Kentucky. I am passionate about my faith, home educating my children, and seeing as much of God’s creation as possible! I grew up in a home that encouraged self-education, so Charlotte Mason’s philosophy was a natural fit for our family. After moving to Kentucky and struggling to find an established CM community, I decided to host information sessions on Mason’s philosophy of education. Those sessions led to a book study, which led to a summer cottage school, which led to the 2012 establishment of Overstone School, a Charlotte Mason cooperative school. Today, there are over 300 CM home educators and many support groups and book studies in the Bluegrass region, connected through the Bluegrass CM Community Facebook page.