Wednesday, January 8, 2014

snow days

So it got cold in Orlando, a brisk 35 degrees on Tuesday morning.  Then we all blinked, and it was mostly over.  It'll be 80 degrees by Friday.  But my friends up north were not so lucky.  As the temperatures dropped below zero with dangerously cold wind chills, schools all over the north and even those as far south as Atlanta closed their doors.  This wasn't a just a snow day, although there was plenty of snow.  Millions of parents sighed in dismay as snow days turned their homes into prisons.

You'd think snow days would be awesome, but most of these kids have been home for two or more weeks. With the excitement of Christmas and New Year's over, these snow days stunk.  Kids were bored.  It's tough to entertain 7-year old Sally for days on end when she's trapped inside.  She needs exercise and interaction with other kids, something that's not possible when you're snowed in and it's literally too cold to play outside. Tough too, occupying her brother, 9-year-old Billy, a child not so excited about reading or doing puzzles.  He'd much rather fight with his sister, watch cartoons, or play video games for hours on end, much to his mother's dismay.

The cold will end and all the children will head back to school.  A collective and silent parental cheer of relief will erupt nationwide.  But school is not always such a great place for kids.  Teachers across the country will embrace these restless little souls, not just one or two at a time, but in packs of thirty, all confined to a twenty by twenty foot room. You'd think there'd be science experiments and games, theatre performances complete with costumes and learning as play.  Study after study has shown us this is how to best teach kids, but we no longer have time to do these things   Instead we continually cut back on rich experiences in favor of more and more seat work.  The richness is confined to "specials" like physical education, computers, art, or music a couple times a week.  We all know that kids only have pent up energy on Mondays and Thursdays right before lunch.  Their musical and artistic creativity can be adequately expressed from 9:30-10:00 on alternate Wednesdays.  And frankly, what's the point of teaching them about computers.  In twenty years we'll all have a chip in our heads anyway. 

This is the modern school.  Children are forced to sit too quietly for hours on end, preparing for standardized tests and five-paragraph essays.  There will be plenty of math worksheets but little physical release.  There's always another spelling test but no money or time for music, for art, for beauty.  And teachers will do the job of somehow entertaining and educating these children, a job that many parents are tired of doing after a week or two. 

Teachers do their best, but let's all be honest.  The only thing that matters is the standardized test.  The test is the measure the student, the teacher, and the school.  Unfortunately that means that for a lot of kids, once they get to school, every day is a really bad, totally boring snow day. 

Photo Credit


  1. And we need differentiated teaching to meet the unique needs of our individual students so they can all take the same standardized test? What is wrong with this picture?

    1. Obviously we have to continue to work on education. As long as our learning objectives are measured solely by standardized tests, I think we are going to have difficulty getting much better. It is not enough that teachers need to be creative in their content delivery. I think we need to take a hard look at our goals for education and how we assess them. Perhaps some creativity there would improve performance.