An exciting proposition is sweeping my profession. Well, it is at least getting people talking. VLAP – voluntary leave of absence plan. I’m not giving away any secrets, information is available using a simple google search. (Although, you will find a number of different sources of information with these same letters)
A number of teachers near me were quite excited about this plan and in truth has some great advantages. Getting up to 5 days off, with no questions asked, is a perk. I like to think of them as personal days. These can be days where you need time away from work and it is to take care of some business that your staff doesn’t really need to know about. It’s like we somehow regained some privacy!
The financial aspect cannot be overlooked as well. If you applied early enough, your unpaid voluntary leave days salary could be evenly deducted over the course of the year, so you wouldn’t be as hard hit all at once.
In addition, that extra day or days off, while unpaid, could save you and your family hundreds of dollars in travelling expenses. We are all very familiar with peak travel times that correspond with school calendars and leaving on a different weekday could be of substantial advantage.
The opportunity to take advantage of time off from work to attend family business, personal business, celebrations or events opens up new doors to teachers. Gone will be the suspicions of administrators who may call into questions the validity or severity of your illness and need to be away from school.
Clearly the boards will see advantages, too. The unpaid days will allow teachers to be away from their duties at no extra cost. The presumption is that “sick days” will decline because teachers will be able to freely take days off they need and not be under a “guise” of illness. While I am not suggesting teachers use their sick days when not ill, I’m sure the likelihood of abuse of sick days is of concern. The reduction of sick days also saves money.
While these are all seemingly great advantages to the VLAP program, this year I am not planning on taking any days. Maybe this is a bold move, maybe this is heresy to write, but I am not on board at this point. I have a few reasons why this program doesn’t propose a huge advantage to me.
My biggest reason by far is that I am on reduced pay at this time, because I am taking a year’s leave of absence in another year. So I guess you may just stop reading here because you judge all my above reasoning as balderdash because I’m already planning on time away from school, so I can just wait my turn.( However, I do see some other reasons not to partake!) What it boils down to is that because I’m on a limited budget, losing those paid days each month, even while distributed across the year, still effects my budget. It is not worth the give and take to me at this point. (nor would it be for 4 years!)
While I do see the perks of the almost “no questions asked” part, this year I have no events scheduled that may need extra time. In my simple minded view, the biggest advantage to this is travelling. An extra long weekend here or there is nice, but not a necessity for me.
If we are still entitled to our special days for funerals, legal matters, specialist medical appointments, most unexpected leaves for me would be covered. My biggest concern here : what is considered SICK? Is sick a physical manifestation? Is our mental health legitimate reason enough for a sick day? With the push on mental health awareness, stability, counselling and care a concern for our students, aren’t we as employees equally susceptible to mental illness?
I always want to make the right and ethical choice. If I have a cold? If I have a migraine? If I have cramps? If I haven’t slept in 3 days and am exhausted? If I’m worried I might lost some professionalism in the class? What is valid in that list? (I’m going to write a separate blog about this.)
What also concerns me is the public opinion of these days. It shouldn’t matter to me. However, with such recent discord and public dismay with our profession, I do wonder how these days may be perceived. Even if we shout it from the rafters: WE ARE NOT GETTING PAID FOR THESE DAYS. I still don’t think it will sway opinion. Those bitter at teachers will always raise the same old arguments, no matter how many times we try to prove otherwise. “So it’s not enough you get 2 months off in the summer, and winter holidays, now you can just take off in the middle of the year and go to Bahamas? Consistent teaching and delivery of curriculum is more important than you going on vacation for a week, even if you aren’t being paid.”
I hope they are not perceived this way. I hope public opinion says, ok, good, take your days, but you are not getting paid. I can deal with that. It’s your own business. I’m fearful it won’t, but can’t really make an educated statement on this as it hasn’t even happened yet.
I hope I don’t get blue paged.