Professor Sharon

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The stuff of snow days

February 3rd, 2011 · 4 Comments · Children, Musings

Snow days and what do we do with them?  I came across this blog posting about how to teach our students when we can’t be with them.  This thought, I’m sure, was brought on by the fact that many of us in New England, and perhaps other places in the US, had two weather related canceled school days this week alone.  Here in Western Massachusetts, we’ve had 4 – 6 snow days this month depending upon the school district.

The blog is informative and helps provide teachers with some good ideas of how to offer content, create a learning environment and stay in touch with students who have need to stay home – either due to weather or illness related school closings.  As a community college instructor myself; it’s been great to have access to email and a learning platform where we could at least keep up with assigned written work this week.

For me, though, a bigger, more foundational question is, why are we worried about how to teach students on snow days?  What happened to freedom to choose for yourself how you would spend time?  Children fortunate enough to live in areas that have this situation fill them with as many activities that are not school as their parents and guardians have the patience for!  Sledding, ice skating, fort and snow people construction, maple snow, board games, maybe even some TV and video games.

When did it become important to structure and plan every moment of a child’s life?  Go ahead and google such expressions as “importance of play” “creativity and play” and try mine: “importance of boredom for young children.”   It’s incredibly valuable to the process of creative thought and problem solving to have moments, and yes, snow days, to be bored and figure out what to do with your time.  Are we going to use technology now to fill up every space in a child’s life?  And, while we’re at it, try searching “nature and young children” and read about the value of outdoor time to a child’s well-being.

Freedom to solve problems, create new games, talk to a friend, eat some dessert in the middle of the day, lay back in the seat by the window and watch the snow fall while your toes begin to tingle as they warm up after building a huge snow family, talk to yourself and imagine your future…the stuff of snow days.

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • ProfSharon

    Hello again,
    I think we agree on many points after all. I think what worries me most is the black and white thinking of drilling, schooling and testing that has arisen and is going way too strong for my tastes.

    When you say students wouldn’t use the time to “think” — I often reflect with myself and my pre-service teachers; is this something we now must help children learn in school so that given the opportunity they might actually choose to “think” instead of the other coach potato options?

    I also agree wholeheartedly with you about the importance of as much advocacy on behalf of the nation’s children as possible!

    I work in the poorest rural county of my state; and for many of my students access to technology is still bounded by dial-ups!

    Thanks for the great conversation.

  • Brian Crosby

    3 points –
    1) My students are over 90% children of poverty … they’ve gone from less than 1/4 having access 4 years ago to 90% having access now AND as I said in my post, most of the rest could have access if they wanted it somewhere else.
    2) Most of my students would not use the time to “think” – they would watch TV, be put in situations where they could be in trouble or just be bored all day. So is it probably a positive possibility for them.
    3) Teachers are fighting for just what you describe as time to think, time to be children … we are being told by the Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee’s, Arne Duncan’s and more that NO students need to drill, drill, drill and then drill some more so they can pass the test. I hope that you and your students will help in the push-back against this way of thinking. Allow students to not be about the test, but about being creative too.

  • ProfSharon

    Hi Brian,
    Thanks for taking the time to respond. I agree that to a great extent my response is a bit middle-class oriented; although I wasn’t that as a child when snow days were considered freedom from school responsibilities. And, certainly, then and now there are children whose foray into the outdoors is not an option at all as you note.

    Isn’t access to the tools of technology also a bit middle-class as well? Although I know from my own travels that actually some parts of poor places in our world have more access than the poor of the US; but do all children have access to the technology to work with their teachers?

    I wonder about the space to just be that I think is being lost and taken away in our fright that children must learn X by Y age. I teach community college and find so many young adults have no way to cope with even 10 minutes of enforced quiet to “think.” I fear the space to learn to be stimulated and fascinated by one’s own brain without direction is a lost art.

  • Brian Crosby

    Hi Professor Sharon – I think you make some great points here, and I mostly agree. That is the middle class me agrees. I remember as a kid making snowmen and snowball fights and snow angels and sledding and skating and all that. And around the dinner table having conversations about my day and what I did and what my brothers and sisters did and what my Mom and Dad remembered doing when they were kids on a snow day … great times.

    But we also have to remember those kids that on a snow day their single mom still has to go to work and can’t afford a sitter so you have a 4th grader in charge of a 1st grader and a pre-schooler with Mom’s admonition that they NOT go outside while she is gone because the area they live in is not safe. Or even just there’s nothing to do after the snowman is built and no one there to share the story of the snowman with or make them hot chocolate and snuggle with them.

    BUT – what if you could have them write about what they are doing or have done and comment back to them? What if you have them describe how it felt when their frozen hands thawed out? What if you led them to visiting web sites where they design their own snowflake and myriad other things. AND if the day turns to 2 they could do some math and see the blog posts of their classmates about their experiences and comment back and forth? Geez – they are writing and communicating and maybe having fun doing it.

    There are even more possibilities I’m not going into here. I travelled to China several years ago and had students write poems about photos I posted on our class photo page from Shanghai while I was there. It goes on and on. Face 2 face best … this just might make a difference for some though.

    Hope that helps explain my post some.

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