A Teacher’s Snow Day Paradox

February 5, 2014 — Leave a comment

sno_ani07sno_ani07It’s a snow day here in Connecticut. The predictions were so dire (8″-11″; freezing rain) that school was cancelled the night before. I didn’t even have to wait to see my district’s name on the scrolling list of school closings on the bottom of the television screen or check the school’s Twitter account. I could turn off the alarm and sleep as long as I wanted.

I am the first to admit that I look forward to a snow day. Like my students, I check the Weather Channel app on my I-phone or track storms on local weather channels. I deny participating in some of the rituals that are guaranteed to bring about a snow day, however, I have made the following  “suggestions” to students:

  • wear PJs inside out
  • walk up stairs backwards
  • placing a spoon under a pillow
  • yell “Snow Day” into the freezer
  • flush ice cubes down the toilet

In short, I look forward to snow days…but there is a paradox.

Because of snow days, I can catch up on work, BUT because of snow days, I will have to work “extra” days.

The end of one semester (mid-January) is directly in the path of a nature’s pile-up of snow. My desk at the end of one semester (mid-January) is directly in the path of a pile-up of papers. Consequently, snow days are useful for “clearing the deck” of paperwork.

Unfortunately, when the school year comes to a close, all snow days are added to the calendar. These make-up days will also need lesson plans, and there will be work generated during these lessons resulting in a pile up of papers.

An argument can be made that working on a snow day means working twice. By law, school has a finite number of days required, and in Connecticut the required number is 180 days of instruction. Since teachers’ salaries are designed on the numbers of days in the classroom, school calendars are designed with an estimated end date. Snow days are added as make-up days, and working on a snow day does not eliminate make-up days.

In spite of this, each snow day holds a possibility of catching up on schoolwork or of getting ahead.

Technology has only exacerbated this possibility. In the past, student papers could have been left on a desk in the classroom, safely kept away from the red pen by snow or ice-covered  roads. Now, there are a number of ways to assess student work on digital platforms. There are a plethora of ways to plan lessons or webinars to attend. There are Twitter chats to visit, and (this one is obvious) blog posts to write.

This is the paradox of snow days. To work and to work again.

Knowing this may reduce the pleasure of snow days, but only a little. A chance to catch up is a chance enjoyed by teachers everywhere.
Except in San Diego, California.
Oh, how they must suffer.

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