Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Snow, Snow, Go Away, So I Can Teach a Full Five Days

No, we have not brought in the nativity.
Poor Joseph is just praying that he will see his family again.
 I am a California baby who has spent her entire academic career in the northern half of the United States. I fondly remember those rare snow days in Detroit, MI. Snow was far from a rarity, but those snow days in the city were a treat. There was one Valentine's Day party that got completely skipped, which was probably a good thing since the Valentine's Day cards my mom had ordered from Current hadn't arrived in time for the scheduled party. We built snowmen and forts and dug through the snow fully decked out in poofy snow pants and boots. Then we moved to Illinois where we experienced more of the same kind of weather, although maybe with a little less of the hardy Michigan attitude toward snow. Then came five years in Wyoming where days off of school for snow were rare. Our first year there it hit -40 degrees the week before Christmas and we still went to school. One May it snowed every Saturday and then melted by the following Tuesday before starting all over again the next weekend. I honestly don't remember snow days during those years. I'm sure we had a couple, but when you live surrounded by snowy mountain ranges I guess it's hard to justify calling off school for cold and snow. Then my last two years in Michigan led to more of the same. Lots of snow but rare snow days. Our school district was in a constant game of chicken with our local district rival. I remember senior year my dad laughing when the radio announcer said that hell had frozen over; both districts had finally caved and closed. My entire K-12 education I faced the possibility of snow days and was frequently enough treated with those special days off from the daily grind of school work. This was in an age before text alerts. We had to wait for the television or radio announcers to let us know that we were closed. But once we heard the announcement it meant a day of no school work and all play.

Then I got to college in Nebraska, a state that vacillates between bitterly cold and unseasonably warm all winter long. My freshman year we had our first snowfall of the year the week before Halloween and my floor had an epic snowball fight with our brother freshman floor. Four months later a late winter snowstorm followed me home to Michigan at the beginning of my spring break and left me snowed in for several days. In college we didn't get snow days. We lived on campus and the belief was that we could walk through the snow to get to class. Cold didn't matter either. It was up to us to dress warmly enough to get across campus without getting frostbite.

Then I started teaching. First the far south side of Chicago, then Central Indiana, and now Northeast Indiana. I have always taught in the cold. I have always had the possibility of snow days, and usually those snow days have been welcome relief. Surprise days off during which I could do laundry, clean, grade homework, do a little extra lesson planning, and once the roads were clear, have a little "me" time. I even got treated to a rare snow day our first year living here when I was working as a TA and going to school full time. The teacher and the student got a snow day and because it was a snow emergency I got to spend the day at home with my husband (who also got a state mandated snow day from work) and our little girl. Northeast Indiana also brought on the regular occurrence of two-hour delays, and new phenomenon in my teaching career. I experienced them on occasion living in Central Indiana; these special mornings are called for everything from fog to ice to freshly fallen snow to extreme cold. And in our county, they are called regularly.

I love the snow. I love snow days. I appreciate the extra morning time of a two-hour delay. But I am one of many who are saying "Enough is enough."

This winter has been a rare winter. I heard a forecast of a bad winter, but back in November I didn't believe it. It was unseasonably warm and we hadn't seen a real snowfall yet.

Then December hit with full force.

It isn't just that it's been snowy or cold. It's been snowy and icy and COLD. We're now to the point where we're running out of places to put the snow and the roads are constantly icy in places because it hasn't gotten warm enough to completely melt the ice that keeps forming. I want to send my kids, especially my very energetic two and a half year old little boy, outside to play, but to send him outside means to risk frostbite or seeing him get swallowed by the foot and a half plus of snow in our backyard.

Yeah, this is just the snow off of our deck.
Straight snow build-up from a month and a half of no snow melt.

And then there is the fact that this winter is seriously interfering with my job.

If you know me well you know that I love teaching. It is my professional calling and I take my responsibility as a teacher of young adults very seriously. We were supposed to be back at school January 7. We haven't had a single full week of school since our second semester started and while I might see my students every single day this week, we are on our second two-hour delay in a row. It has almost become a social media game in which my colleagues and I watch the school closings and delays being announced on the television and then start taking Facebook bets as to when we are going to be next ones to fall. We watch the public schools close and then hold our breaths to see how long the Catholic schools will hold out. Once they fall we know that we are doomed. Many of us have resorted to handing out assignments before potential snow days and expecting our students to complete them on their days off. My AP students have come to expect (and probably dread) emails from me with assignments on their days off. We have been in school for four weeks but have no learning momentum, no consistency. I want my routine back. I am tired of changing lesson plans every day. I am tired of cutting plans and important learning activities short. And I miss my students.

My dear husband, who loves the snow and has excitedly used every snow fall since January as an excuse to use his new snow blower, says that if he hears one more person say they are done with this winter and the snow that he might lose it. Why? Because he is loving this winter. He is loving all of the snow. And he doesn't want to see it all melt yet, especially if it contributes to a flood of Biblical proportions, which appears to be very likely. But I am done with this winter. It's time for a regular routine again. It is time for me to be allowed to teach without a middle of the week interruption or a shortened period during which I am forced to cram a 50 minute lesson into 30 minutes.

It has been a beautiful winter. When I look out our front or back windows I see a beautiful, thick blanket of white snow. It is truly gorgeous and evidence that God has a sense of humor when it comes to weather. It's hard to be mad when I am inside looking out at the best winter wonderland that I've seen in years. But I am ready for spring and the return of "normal." Anyone else?

No comments:

Post a Comment