Snow Days and Disruption: An open letter to families

Dear PDS Families:

A few lines (with minor edits)  from division in-boxes and my twitter feed:

Student:

I just wanted to say how I’ve never been so productive or so academically aware on a Snow day. I’ve been working all day today and yesterday making up work for the D day and other classes. I feel home schooled. I miss school. 🙁

Faculty:

Just finishing up using Edmodo for the first time, I have over three hundred replies in less than an hour in a review session about America in WWI.  Very awesome

I had 100% participation (6th grade) yesterday

I did create a giant loophole when I posted my assignments by calling them homework…due Thursday and Friday. I have only been contacted by 25% of students. I think Edmodo is probably more effective than posting on my PDS site or emailing, but I’ll assess it tomorrow.

Another snow day tomorrow so online class on Edmodo and Google Docs. Keeps us connected and learning. Classrooms have no walls.

Parent:

I just wanted to say that the math homework today was excellent. It was challenging and the electronic format was genius! I hope to see more of them, even on non-snow days.

Thank you for the innovative approach – it is great to see that we are able to use technology in this way

As we make our way through what has already been a most trying winter I want to express my appreciation for the understanding and patience of families and faculty.

One snow day can be a delight but this many become a test and a trial. Above are just a few of the comments coming in about how we are coping with the days of snow and ice. I am sure there will be more and possibly some less positive.

I want to assure families that we are doing, and will do, whatever we can to maintain momentum and ensure continuity in spite of the disruptions.

This is somewhat easier to achieve in the older grades where students have greater independence and they and their teachers can use technology to keep connected and the work flow going. It’s harder with the younger children although their teachers have been talking with them about how to stay engaged and always learning.  I am so appreciative of the faculty willingness to explore new ways to keep in touch with students and their work.

For the older students at PDS these snow days have been disruptive but manageable.

It may not be the same – but students can continue to read and  write essays, responses, poems and  position papers. They can work through mathematical examples, tackle complex problems, listen to French, speak in Spanish and conduct research.

They can create, communicate and contribute  their ideas; collaborate and submit their work; contact each other and their teacher; and receive feedback via Skype, ooVoo, Edmodo, Facebook, Google docs etc. plus wikis, blogs, chats, text, phone and email.

They can learn their lines, practice their music and maintain fitness. They can catch-up,  forge ahead or carve out new directions.

But they can’t rehearse on the stage, perform in the band, sing in the chorus or play on the team.  And – while they can use technology to create a virtual classroom – they can’t sit as a group in the same room, eat lunch together or attend an assembly. It’s not the same.

Activities where it is essential that  students need to be together in real time – play and concert rehearsals, chorus, and basketball for example – have been the hardest hit. And rescheduling is a challenge.

I know that time lost to weather emergencies raises other concerns for families. Sometimes school is closed but work is not. What to do?  We understand the strain and stress on parents who must scramble to find basic child care.

And the academic time lost. Will my child now be at a disadvantage because the class won’t complete the material for that class or complete the course with adequate preparation for the next level? Can the time be made up?

Be assured that we will work to ensure that children are not at any disadvantage because of time lost and that they are indeed moving forward with what they need to do.

In that most annoying but true of axioms – every crisis is an opportunity. And these days of disruption are a chance to discover news ways to get things done and new sources of resilience and support.

I hope all of you are safe, warm, powered and productive. And  I hope to see all of the students very soon!

– Josie

8 Comments

  1. Jodi Liston:

    Hi Josie!

    Just wanted to add a LS perspective. We allowed Paris a specific amount of time of (PB/Discovery kids) television and Nintendo DS game time over the course of the snow days. He had the option of reading, making a craft, imaginary play with trucks and trains and we played family games like Uno, for instance. Finally, we also continued doing our nightly math-ups and spelling sentences so no time was ‘lost.’

  2. Josie:

    Thanks Jodi:
    That’s great.Sounds fun and productive. I especially like the trucks and trains part!

    What I think we need to focus on going forward are possible ways to keep up a sense of community when we have an unplanned closing. Of course – as soon as we have something ready to go – we won’t have another such day for three years!

  3. Josie,
    Thanks for your insights into snow days. It sounds like there are fantastic things in place for the older kids to keep up with the work. Great to hear.

    I must say, however, I have serious concerns for my first-grader. I’m not a teacher, but I can’t help but think our kids are missing out on a lot. And I can’t imagine how it will be made up? Will choice time become literacy, recess shortened in favor of more math? I understand a couple of days, but I just don’t know how our kids will make up what they’re missing. Most other schools make up time after a certain point, and I wonder if it’s something we can consider? I believe there must be
    a line somewhere where we say “OK, now the kids are being hurt by this.” What if we have another 5 days out this month?
    Please forgive me if this sounds negative, but I’m truly concerned.
    Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. Ann:

    We’ve been writing silly sentences with our spelling words, doing math-ups and multiplication, and keeping up with writing assignments. And of course, engaging in loads of outdoor play in the snow. Today the kids and Andy (I was too chicken!) took advantage of the ice on our (1/2 mile long) driveway to slide all the way down to the bottom. Adrienne and Aidan were very disappointed when the plow truck finally showed up.

    However, it’s difficult at best to keep any sort of routine going, or get into a groove, with all these disruptions. I like the occasional snow day, but this has gotten ridiculous! I sure hope that rodent in Punxsutawney, PA didn’t see his shadow today. I’m ready for spring!!

  5. Josie:

    Amy – I think the unusual circumstances of this winter raise the bar on expectations going forward. We have to find the ways to maintain that all-important sense of the learning community and forward progress whatever the elements throw at us. This is an important conversation and one that should – and will – continue.

    Ann – Hard to imagine being disappointed when the snow plow shows up! But that’s kids for you. A whole different perspective on learning and what matters most!

  6. Will Meyer:

    Hi Josie,

    If you ask me, snow days are days to become less connected–not more engaged. When there’s a snow day, I want to be a hermit. I want to play outside, I want to frolic in the snow. I don’t want to read the news, talk to my friends.

    Snow days are to hang with your fam, neighbors, your dog. Don’t go anywhere, don’t do anything but sledding, board games and hot coco. Draw a picture, write a play, write a song, have a snow ball fight. (nothing like some good old snow violence PDS!) I think too much technology can bite away at creativity. I challenge kids and teachers to turn off their phones, stay away from their computers and use snow days to disconnect from PDS. I think that’s healthy.

    I don’t know where your testimonials are coming from (another planet perhaps?) But 9 out 10 kids and teachers don’t want to do work on snow days. I’m a secular progressive, but I honestly believe that snow days are acts of god. And if you try to contradict an act of god with homework and twitter, you’re asking for 10 more snow days.

    So when you get a snow day, turn everything off, light a fire, find a book, play violent video games!! And say thanks to mother nature!

    -Will

  7. David Santner:

    I have to say I think Will is right. When deep snow falls the world becomes quiet and still and if we listen to our instincts we settle in and enjoy the pure joy of not doing. The best days of my life were spent living as a hermit in a tiny cabin in the Adirondacks each January through March of my youth. Sitting by a fire all day reading Tolstoy, eating sourdough pancakes and letting the snow fall. There is so much to learn and so much to miss if our lives are always busy. Wasn’t that the lesson of “Race to Nowhere”? Isn’t that what Ken Robinson is talking about? Trust the snow to teach us and trust the kids to listen to it’s timeless lessons.

  8. Ann:

    I understand what Amy is saying and another 5 snow days might prompt me to think long the same lines. But being optimistic that winter is tiring itself out and we won’t have a bunch more snow days, I truly have every confidence in the teachers at PDS that by the last day of school, the kids will be exactly where they should be academically. Maybe I’m being naive, but I’m not at all worried that my kids will be “behind” in any way, especially because I consider them to be so far “ahead” simply by virtue of where they attend school. And if we do see more snow days, then perhaps the LS teachers could email us parents with work that we can do at home with our young students to make up for what they miss due to the weather. (And no, I’m not from another planet, but I am willing to make sure my kids keep up with their assignments, even on snow days, and guess what – they do it!)

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