Snow Days

Snow days are magic.

There aren’t many things that remind us how unimportant we are. But that call from the school changes everything. Suddenly, that homework assignment isn’t due for another day. The test has been postponed. The faculty meeting will be rescheduled (or, maybe it won’t). Basketball practice won’t be happening. Depending on the home situation, Mom and Dad might go into a panic. They still have to get to work, and suddenly there are child care arrangements to be made. Priorities have to be shifted. Some things just aren’t going to get done today. And while it may be inconvenient, we love it.

Snow days give us the opportunity to press pause on our lives for a day. Take a break. Catch your breath. The urgency can wait until tomorrow. I used to treat them as days for special projects or catching up. I always had a network update or some tech project that is best done when no one is around, and those days are perfect for that kind of thing. But lately, I’ve even avoided that. Check in. Respond to things that are urgent. Make sure nothing is on fire. Then, go play in the snow.

It’s interesting that these disruptions to the normal routine are still so welcome. Two years ago, we took a snow day that ended up lasting three months, and things really haven’t been the same since. We eventually learned how to do most of the school things without actually going to school. Learning can continue. It looks a little different. But we don’t all have to be in the same place for school to happen. And in some cases, online learning methodologies can be better than traditional face to face classes. That’s especially true when you know everyone’s coming back to school in a day or two.

In the fall of 2020, my school announced that it would no longer have snow days. It was a logical conclusion. We had figured out a way to do online learning. We had all the tools. Students had access to online resources and ubiquitous technology. Teachers knew how to teach in a hybrid environment. Snow days are enormously expensive and disruptive, and there was no reason why we had to have them anymore. We can just declare a remote learning day, and instruction can continue.

The new policy didn’t last more than a week. While it’s possible for learning to continue in spite of bad weather, we still crave the forced day of rest that comes with the snow day. Despite the inconvenience and disruption, we love being told, on occasion, that we can’t do any work today.

As we returned to a more normal school experience after the height of the pandemic, we distanced ourselves from all of the things that we had to do to make school possible in the spring of 2020. Our use of learning management systems and video conferencing and flipped/blended pedagogies has largely evaporated. I’ve had requests from teachers to put an end to our 1:1 program. I’ve been asked to force the removal of video conferencing tools on all student devices. While we didn’t do either of those, there is a certain level of PTSD among our teachers, and suggesting that we keep some of the strategies and resources we used to get through remote learning usually falls on deaf ears. In fact, our use of technology to promote individualized, semi-synchronous, student-centered learning experiences has declined significantly in the wake of Covid. There’s a very strong urge to return to normal, where normal is the comfort of traditional classroom practices.

But snow days are magic. We don’t cringe when the school says “stay home today. We’ll try again tomorrow.” Even though the mandate to stay home triggered all of the trauma of the last two years, we still welcome the disruption to our lives. So maybe there’s hope that we’ll go back to some of those other things, too.