by Areej Ahmed
With global warming on the rise over the past few years, snowstorms have become almost obsolete, at least here in the lower half of New York. Personally, I’ve always loved falling snow. However, this past February has thrown us enough snowstorms to last until I graduate in 2023 (at least).
The one unarguably good thing that comes out of snowstorms: Snow Days. Were they more fun as a kid? Absolutely. Nothing beats waking up in the morning just to find out school is canceled. Or spending the day playing in the snow and making snowmen, just to come back into the house for a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Even making extra pocket money by shoveling other’s people’s driveways is a plus. But above all, the greatest part is that snow days are breaks. The fact that they come relatively unexpectedly is what makes them the best. It’s nature’s way of giving students the chance to stop and relax.
And yet, technology strikes again. Emails and Blackboard and Google Classroom give professors so much accessibility to their students. While it’s great for notifying students or keeping them updated, it’s not so favorable when students are assigned extra work virtually that they wouldn’t have been given otherwise. Snow days have become increasingly less relaxing. There is less emphasis on taking a pause and instead more stress about “catching up”. When I was in elementary school, there was no way for teachers to contact their students to assign an extra page of reading or make a new response due. Once I entered middle school and educational services like Google Classroom became more common, the calm of snow days became interrupted with new notifications from teachers or pending assignments.
In terms of a need for a break, the same can be said for teachers as well. People often forget that teachers are people too. They have their own families and their own needs to relax. Teachers may also have their own small children whose school has been canceled due to the snow. Should they be forced to choose between spending the day and taking care of their children in the wake of an unexpected cancellation or holding class for their own students? By having the administration cancel school entirely, including virtual classes, teachers may feel less compelled to assign extra work in fear of slacking off or not doing enough compared to other teachers.
In college, because most professors hand out a syllabus they constructed before the beginning of the semester, the work students are given is already assigned to them. This leaves no need for professors to create additional assignments because the work is already assigned. There is less chance for a snow day to actually detrimentally cause students to fall behind in the material. Perhaps an alternative to having online classes on snow days would be a response or an assignment of some sort that isn’t due at least until the next class.
I should make clear that I do believe that if the given number of snow days in a semester is actually hindering the professor’s ability to teach the material well and for students to efficiently comprehend that material, then having a virtual class may be worth the effort. I realize that most classes meet twice or even once a week. Yet, keep in mind that students and administrators have always been used to having classes canceled on snow days. If not for the Covid-19 pandemic, classes would not be meeting on days canceled for inclement weather. A year ago, this wouldn’t even be a discussion. Teachers would adapt and plan their learning material around snow days, as they always have been in the past.
The pandemic has already taken away so much from students. Mental health among students is severely declining, mainly because they are forced to sit in front of a screen for hours on end, with limited social interaction. School, in more ways than one, is entirely different than it was a year ago. Are snow days really something else that we need to lose right now?
The argument against holding online classes on snow days may seem trivial, but during times like these, it is essential for students to have the opportunity to take mental breaks. School is stressful enough as it is. College (if you choose to take it seriously) is no joke, and simple things like snow days that cancel classes unexpectedly are something to be celebrated – not ignored. There is something to be said about the simple pleasures in life, and snow days are definitely one of them. And amid a global pandemic, we need all the simple pleasures we can get.