Posts Tagged ‘Snow Days’

590x214_02282030_abundant_snowfall0228-2In the table above, Accuweather makes the same mistake that you probably hear every time a TV commercial says that something is “two times faster.” The problem is that they claim to report the “Percent Above Normal” when what they are actually reporting is the percent of normal. Boston’s snowfall this winter is 167% of its normal snowfall, which you can see by multiplying 33.7 by 1.67. Since it is 167% of normal, it is only 67% above normal. Along these lines, I often wonder how TV commercials can get away with saying that something is “two times faster” when it is really 200% as fast, or one time faster.

None of this changes the fact that this is the snowiest winter I have experienced in years and that if there are any more snow days I will really wish that I could withdraw from my courses.

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When I was younger, I loved snow days. I preferred to find out about them after I had gotten up and ready for the day so that I could take full advantage of the opportunities that snow days provided, since I did not have the self control to get up at my usual time if I knew that there was no school. In college, snow days were rare, but I still appreciated the occasional surprise class cancellation (except for the semester that at least 1/3 of my once-a-week class were cancelled – I don’t think we ever got to the “bang-up lecture on hegemony” that the professor kept promising). I liked these surprise cancellations so much that I thought that if I ever taught my own courses I would leave some space in the syllabus so that I could surprise students with a canceled class once a semester or so. Then I started teaching classes in grad school, and everything changed.

Suddenly, my concern was fitting all of the topics that I wanted to discuss into 15 weeks and a cancellation meant major revisions to the schedule that was already overflowing. I gave up on the idea of surprise cancellations (which students who commute surely would not have appreciated anyway) but the weather still caused the occasional problem. Sure, I enjoyed the day that I spent watching Mean Girls because I had been looking for a clip to use when I found out that classes were cancelled, but I also needed to spend time deciding how I was going to deal with the readings, discussions, assignment deadlines, and exam dates that were threatened by missing a class. This is exacerbated by the fact that my syllabi have very specific dates for everything (I have never been able to say, “we’ll talk about this book for a week or so and move on when we’re done” like some of my colleagues).

When classes are cancelled, then, I have a few options:

  • Ignore the material I was going to discuss that day and move on. In some classes, this is inconvenient. In others, it is impossible. For these reasons, I have never used this option.
  • Provide students with an outline of the things that I was going to discuss in class and cram the highlights in at the beginning of the next class before continuing on schedule. This works for discussion-based courses but not as well for things like statistics or research methods. It also gives students the perception that the topic was not very important.
  • Cut down the material for two days and try to cover them both at once. This is typically the approach I use in discussion-based courses. It is inconvenient but does not completely eliminate the discussion of anything that I or my students find particularly important.
  • Push everything back. Moving the entire schedule back a day inevitably pushes something at the end of the semester off of a cliff, so it is essentially the same as skipping a day. That is probably why I have not used this method, either.
  • Speed things up. This is the approach that I am most likely to use in a class like statistics or research methods where I feel like I can’t leave anything out. The idea is that I will be behind at the end of each class period but I will eventually catch up to the planned schedule.

Any of these methods would probably be okay for a single class period, depending on the course topic. Unfortunately, this semester I have already missed an entire week of one course. I hate snow days.

*Edit: The title is now grammatically correct (it previously said “Being a professor takes ruins snow days” because the original title was that it “takes some of the fun out of” snow days but that was way too long. I also forgot to post the line about Facebook below. I’m apparently bad at both grammar and self-promotion.

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