Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Going Forward: Snow Days or Online Days?

Last weekend, I shared the following tweet:

While I knew I was in a provocative space with this statement, I also wanted to know what others thought about it. I received a slew of responses from folks that ran the gamut of sentimentality and social/emotional awareness to quality of work to accessing essential tools and planning to pull this off. 

My stance, going into this conversation, was about our extension of my last blog post. Now that we have the capability to have online days, are snow days a thing of the past?

It’s not the first time I’ve been down this rabbit hole. Back in 2011, I tweeted the following:

Back then, I called it cool and innovative, but that was Pre-Pandemic, before the reality of the logistics to really make it happen. I was also inspired by a student, Zachary Maxwell, who, in 2014, wrote and directed a film called Anatomy of a Snow Day. This film deals with all of the logistical elements that must be in place in order for New York City to issue a rare snow day for students. Among those issues are transportation, type of precipitation, accumulation of precipitation, wind chill, public transit access, etc. At the time, access to Zoom and Google Meet weren’t even thought of. 

In short, if we can pull it off, why don’t we?

Here are some of the considerations from those who responded:

  • Quickly changing an in-person lesson to an online lesson is complicated.

  • Who is going to be their learning liaison / helper / parent in this situation?

  • Do all students have the equity of access to devices and the internet? (And where does the funding come from to pull that off?)

  • If we have allotted snow days, shouldn’t those be depleted before moving into an online option?

  • If the day is just a bunch of busywork to accommodate the situation, is it worth it?

  • What about students with special needs? How will an online day support their individual needs and interventions?

  • Will teachers have the time they need to plan for a day’s worth of meaningful instruction?

In my original tweet, I hashtagged the phrase #ChangeMyMind. It was an invitation to others that I was open to differing opinions and was welcoming the perspectives of others. 

Going forward, how can we leverage our capabilities and reconcile them with nostalgia?

  • Could there be a balance? A partial day? A real snow day on one occurrence with an online option for the next occurrence?

  • Districts prioritizing the equity of devices and internet access for every student.

  • In terms of social / emotional learning and wellness, do we have an obligation to uphold tradition in this case? Perhaps we could do this with some parameters for helping families and communities shovel out or catch up on a hobby or launch a learning investigation of something that is of personal interest or cook something together - or even just to unplug and enjoy the day. There’s learning in all those things too--just not content-driven or traditionally assessed at school.

In Jefferson County Schools, Superintendent Bondy Shay Gibson wrote THIS LETTER to parents and students where she wrote that the snow day was “an opportunity to make some memories with your family,” and that “We will return to the serious and urgent business of growing up on Thursday, but for tomorrow...go build a snowman.”

Perhaps this is one of those situations where “just because we can” doesn’t mean “we should.”

In one response to my tweet, a teacher simply wrote, “Kids need snow days.” Perhaps everybody does.

I’d like to amend my original #ChangeMyMind hashtag with #UpdatedPerspective. I still think this is a conversation worth having and that perhaps, as the years roll along, that there may be an equitable space for finding learning opportunities for bad weather days, perhaps only after scheduled snow days have been used up. Or maybe we just stick with tradition: cuddle up with a book, some hot chocolate, a Netflix binge, unlimited sledding, snowman building, and memories to last a lifetime...

And in the interest of ending this on a positive note, please enjoy the following parody from Mary Morris, a third-grade teacher in Tennessee who shared her feelings about Snow Days in this parody of Adele’s Hello: