The Snow Day: The Crux of the Malcontent

author/source: Briana Sasso Buffone

Brianna-Snow-HeartThe snow day: the anomaly that gets every student and teacher through the winter.

Today’s kids may not know the simultaneous thrill and fear of sitting in your bed with your fingers crossed, listening to the radio and praying your district is listed saying school is cancelled, but the anticipation is still the same.  Snow days often are called the night before these days, allowing us to turn our alarms off much earlier than we used to.  But every time the forecast has a potential snowstorm, it is all we can talk about.  We sit around the teacher’s room table, making our predictions.

 “What do you think, early release?  Two-hour delay the next day?”

 “They’re going to call it, no doubt in my mind.”

 “It’s not even going to hit us.  We’ll be here.”

The conversation goes round and round each time.  And it never gets old.  Why?  Because snow days are exciting for kids and adults alike.  Yes, we will have to make them up in the sweltering heat.  Yes, in June it will be far less exciting than it was in February.  But everyone loves a snow day.  Amiright?

Brianna-Group-PeopleWe go home for the day and a couple of hours later, the snow day call comes in.  Turn off the alarms, folks, tomorrow is good for a sleep-in. Click on the Twitter announcement, click on the district Facebook post or the local news outlet’s article, and you’ll realize that not everyone is as excited about the day off as you are.  Looking for disgruntled people en masse?  Read any headline that discusses a snow day and you will find a plethora of angry commenters.

Are we thrilled about making the days up in June without air conditioning?  Absolutely not, but there is nothing we can do to change it, so I say we might as well enjoy it.  Do I understand the plight of parents who are suddenly forced to scramble for childcare?  Of course.  I can only imagine the extra stress that this might add to people who do not have the luxury of relying on family or friends when school is called off.  It has always baffled me, however, that so many people who are seemingly unaffected by the decision to call school off for the day take such personal offense.

Now, I could probably avoid reading people’s comments.  Just keep scrolling, they say!  But aside from parents who get upset that their childcare is interrupted, there are always three other types of discontented commenters on any given snow or cold-related post.  Every time, I just can’t help myself- I look for the entertainment.  I go directly to the comment sections and picture scowling people, angrily tapping away at their keyboards with the index finger of each hand.  Or maybe everyone in the office gathers around – the way we gather to discuss a snow day – to collectively decide on which angry statement will get their point across about those spoiled teachers.

Brianna-phonePeople Who are Concerned with the “Wussification” of America

Look for Bob Somebody in the comments.  He’s wearing a MAGA hat and holding up the fish he caught in his profile picture, and he is pissed as hell that these kids have the day off.  So, what if it’s -30 with the wind chill?  Who cares if there’s a foot of snow that possibly may fall?  Bob Somebody went to school all winter long, walking five miles uphill both ways wearing flip flops, and he carried both of his siblings on his back while doing it.  No one ever gave him the day off for a few flakes of snow or a gust of wind!  He is so worried about what is happening to America.  Bob says that parents should put a coat on their kids and drive them to school if they don’t want their kids waiting at the bus stop.  If you don’t want your kid to go to school that day, then don’t go!  Closing the schools for snow is just going to cause snowflakes (this is how he refers to anyone he deems ‘delicate’ if you agree the snow day should be called).  Don’t argue with Bob.  He’s going to angry-emoji all of your responses and he has all day to sit there and reply to every single one in paragraph-form, eventually resorting to playground insults if you don’t agree with him.

Brianna-TaxPeople Who Pay Taxes

Jean Somebody is a hard-working citizen who seems to think she pays more taxes than anyone else out there. Her profile picture is either a family photo from thirty years ago or her standing in front of a sunset.  She has firm knowledge that specifically her tax dollars solely fund education.  She doesn’t even have kids in the school system!  Why should she have to pay for kids and teachers to have the day off?  It really gets Jean going when school is not in session because all of her hard-earned tax dollars are going to waste on something that does not even affect her.  What does the education of the people in her community have to do with her?  Jean wants you to know how upset she is, so she uses A LOT of exclamation points!!!!!!!!  She also posts every phrase or sentence separately to make sure you notice her there in the comments.  If you engage in conversation, she will call you Hon.  Yes, with a capital H.

Brianna-White-winterPeople Who Hate How Lazy Teachers Are

Someone Somewhere is quite possibly just trolling, but regardless, he or she successfully incites a comment riot every time.  His or her profile picture is a meme, a cartoon, anime, or a celebrity and the name attached is something vague.  This person just likes to add a little fuel to the fire; you have no idea if his/her comments represent any actual beliefs.  He/she inserts a comment like, “Oh great, as if the summers aren’t enough.  Let’s give the teachers more time off.”  Teachers and their defenders flock to respond, some shaming the person, some explaining how snow days’ work (they are made up, after all).  Other real people will actually comment and agree that teachers are overpaid for how little they work, and while you’re at it, take away that useless February vacation!  Oftentimes, Someone Somewhere will fade into the abyss, never to comment again.  His or her mission to irritate people while hiding behind a keyboard has been achieved.

Do I agree with every single snow or cold day call that is made?  No.  But I respect that it is not my decision to be made, and I am honestly glad that I am not the one who has to make it.  No matter what you do, someone is mad at you and complaining about your choice.  People do not always take the time to think about the factors that have to be considered when making the call.

I’m going to save you some time.

To Snow Day or Not to Snow Day: What We Must Consider

1. Transportation

Brianna-School-BusNot all students are fortunate enough to have parents readily available to drive them to school or sit with them in the car at the bus stop until it comes.  Some parents must be to work at a certain time; employers do not always care if having children is the reason you are late.  If the bills are going to get paid, sometimes parents have to make the hard choice of leaving their child at the bus stop so that they can get to work on time.  Buses themselves cannot always navigate roads in difficult conditions.  Sometimes it’s a struggle just to get them started in frigid temperatures.  Students who walk to school have to brave the elements.  Not everyone makes sure their sidewalk is clear, so that students are forced to walk in the street…near cars that are slipping and sliding.  And plows.  From past experiences, superintendents usually make the call to be safe rather than sorry.  If the roads are clearer than anticipated, that’s okay.  A bus full of children getting in an accident is not.

2. Heat in Schools

Brianna-HeatI know it is automatically assumed that schools are all perfectly temperature-controlled.  Being that many schools in many districts have been around nearing one-hundred years or more, the heating systems are less than perfect.  I’ve been in schools where the temperature is controlled by someone in another state.  I’ve been in schools where one section of the building is freezing and 50, and another part of the school is sweltering and 90, at the same time.  Schools have to consider what would happen if a pipe burst while students were there.  Schools have to consider if students and teachers are going to be able to be productive in the environment provided.  Schools ultimately have to consider what is most cost effective: cranking the heat and paying custodians overtime is a lot more expensive than the cost of zero air-conditioning in June.

3. Student Safety

Brianna-SafetyI agree that there are many parents who need to be held more accountable for properly providing for their children.  I know many low-income families who are able to dress their children snugly for the winter weather, or they know what resources are available when they need help.  I also know that there are many children who are not fortunate enough to have parents that make sure they are wearing extra layers, a zippered and buttoned coat, boots, hat, scarf, and mittens on days that call for them.  There is plenty of neglect in this world, and I can assure you it does not all stem from your socio-economic class.  Are we supposed to tell our five-year-olds waiting for the bus stop for thirty-minutes in too-short pants and a light fleece that it’s too bad for them that their parents don’t care enough?  And when the bus doesn’t show up because it is stuck somewhere, should we expect they can find warmth somewhere?  A lot of us are fortunate enough to come from common-sense, nurturing homes, but not all students are.  I, for one, would rather have the day off than to risk innocent children becoming the victim of circumstance when it is avoidable.

4. Attendance

Brianna-attendanceIf school remains in session on a day with particularly difficult weather, some parents choose to keep their children home.  While snow days are called more often than not, what if they weren’t?  If we said school was on in treacherous conditions more frequently, I wouldn’t fault parents for wanting to keep their children home and safe.  Let’s say that around 50% of students attend school that day.  From a teacher’s standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to start anything new when half of the class is missing.  Most likely, the teacher is going to do some review or catch students up on some work that is missing.  Is it really worth avoiding a snow day?  The school also has that day formally recorded and that day’s attendance rate can count against the school.  From the school’s perspective, it makes more sense to have school when more students are likely to attend.

5. Family Time

Brianna-FamilyThis last one isn’t an actual consideration, but I do think it is an important consequence of snow days.  Yes, I know that not everyone is fortunate enough to be home with their children on these days, and there are still others that are and are not happy about it.  But snow days are for watching movies, baking cookies, doing art projects, making snowmen and snow-angels and having snowball fights.  And yes, for learning work ethic through shoveling or getting done some much-needed cleaning.  Or, snow days are for doing nothing at all, together.  While not everyone is able to be home to do that and not everyone feels that way, that’s what snow days were and are to me.  I’m thankful for an extra day with my son when he is as small as he will ever again be.  I like to look on the bright side and think that I’m not the only one who benefits in this way.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, nor is it scientifically-based.  This is actually a quite abbreviated summary of why snow days must be called.  At the end of the day, it is about keeping everyone safe.  Sometimes superintendents have to make difficult calls based on the knowledge they have at the time; sometimes they are good calls, sometimes they are bad calls.

To the people who love to complain about it, I have the following suggestions:

- Enjoy the fact that there are less buses on the roads, therefore less traffic.

- Try walking to work or standing outside for 20 minutes the next time the temperature is below zero.

- Become a teacher.  I’m sure it will be easy for you, with all of the “days off”.