Thursday, February 3, 2011

Snow Day Heresy

I posted this on a staff forum, yesterday:
I am writing this during a "snow day", and let me begin by swearing, I like my snow day.  But a have a couple of thoughts that fly in the face at the intense glee with which my colleagues and students anticipate even the possibility of this and any snow day.

First, isn't the local news media due some blowback (pardon the pun) for the way it now hypes the possibility of snow fall?  I'm looking at about 5" of snow outside that was predicted to me nothing less than a weather event of Biblical proportion.  Isn't it irresponsible for media hype to contribute to a massive shut down of activity and productivity?  I admire employers who urge employees to work from home or arrive late when weather hits.  But at schools, we generally "lose" a day, and it is my impression that the media helps to bully administrators into closures. (Heresy, I know).

But the actual purpose of this post is a second, more subtle consideration:  Why do we like them so much (And remember, I do).  I don't think it's because we teachers and students hate school so much.  In fact, here's another heresy-- I actually enjoy working on a snow day.  But it's work I choose to do and like to do.  Today I have been working hard on professional development issues and course challenge based learning projects.  I have also been developing materials and plans.  I like it.  But I control it.  I have the freedom to start it and stop it.  I'm not as enmeshed in other people's plans and agendas, nor am I pinned down in managing different groups of persons who march through my classroom, S-7.

But I think the crux of the matter is freedom.  In fact, we are so sure that the students will be highly motivated by this freedom from "school" that they will sell thousands of dollars worth of Sweepstakes tickets as a school fundraiser and be rewarded with days "off".  (Strangely ironic that the off day would have such high status and that our tuition paying parents would tacitly endorse this use of their tuition!).  Oops,  total heresy.

OK.  Here's the real point.  I think the CBL gives us a crack at tapping this motivation to be free.  Sure, I might use the freedom to "goof off."  But what if I am enticed to pursue a deep passion or insatiable curiosity?  I think the challenge projects, anchored in the students' worlds of ideas and concerns, along with a mandate to make a difference- hold out the possibility for incredible motivation to learn.  I have seen students so engaged in cbls that their parents ordered them to lay off their projects.  These kids would no doubt plow (sorry) right through a snow day.

Flickr CC photo by Colin Purrington


Anonymous said...

Choice is inherently motivational. This has huge implications for almost everything we do at school. If we want people to be excited about what they're doing, it works better if they have chosen it. This goes for teachers and students.

kakoskela said...

I am often surprised at teachers' anticipation of Snow Days since it seems to me it just interrupts their planned classes. It's also nice to hear someone else question the days off "reward" when it seems parents would want their full oney's worth, teachers complain about not having enough class time, and a reward of "time off for good behavior" intimates that "time served" is akin to punishment.

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