Snow Day: A Professor’s Perspective

Woke up before dawn this morning and raced out of the bedroom to rouse my computer from sleep mode as I peered out the living room window to a discouraging scene. Winds roared from the south, racing up our street. In the dark distance of the corner where our street meets another, a car struggled fruitlessly to negotiate the unplowed turn until a neighbour popped out of his door to help the driver. The bus service website informed me that school buses were cancelled. The weather site’s alert switched from a “Snow Squall Watch” to “Snow Squall Warning” while I watched. Snow began to cling to the window.

So, reader, I cancelled class. All on my own. I wasn’t going to wait for the university to not do so (our “Inclement Weather Policy” is insanely cautious, based on the optimistic idea that everyone can get into university if they really try and many students live on campus anyway). Yours truly lives a five kilometer trek from campus up and down slippery hillsides featuring a laughable walking path for a small portion of the hike. And public transit in our city is a joke, especially in my neighbourhood, even though it’s located within spitting distance of a major road. Those pesky rock cuts and sheer drops mean there’s no easy way for feet to take you from here to there. But I digress. . . .

Unlike school kids, I don’t thrill to a cancellation. First off, I prepare mightily for a class. It’s much more work to have to do the origami of class reorganization when I cancel a class as it is to teach it. If something is on the syllabus, it’s important for the students’ learning and that means I need to try and find ways to cover at least part of the material. So now I’m splitting up a class on Bronze Age Mesopotamian religion and shoe-horning the bits into next week’s discussion of Mesopotamian social order and economies along with another section prefacing the Sargonids.

Secondly, it’s a fair bit of work to actually cancel a class. Trying to make the antiquated and annoying email options in our course management software actually get emails that anyone will receive? Worrisome. Trying to import a class list of emails into our regular campus email system? Frustrating as the system seems to cap somewhere around twenty BCCs. 80 students in the class, you do the math. (Obviously, I need to get all of them on a Facebook group or following a Twitter feed but you try herding undergraduates to an optional technology platform. It’s impossible.)

Our house, snow bedecked!Most annoying? I don’t get to sleep in. I don’t “take a day off”. I add in several hours worth of additional work with contacting students, answering queries, reorganizing material and then shoveling the damned stuff. (6-8 inches of new fall, drifts up to mid-thigh on me and I am not a short woman.) Mike and Eldest have also done more than their fair share of snow moving since the snow plows finally came by a bit before noon. He’ll have to go out for his evening shift at work. I’ll be home, swotting up on more course readings and prepared to shovel us out after the snowplows run through a second time.

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6 Comments

Filed under academe, teaching

6 responses to “Snow Day: A Professor’s Perspective

  1. Not gloating at all, but it seems to have missed us. That’s some snow.

    Did you hear that it snowed in Egypt?

  2. Universities really do tend to be ridiculous on those policies, don’t they? Just because the students tend to live right on/near campus doesn’t mean that everyone else can get there and home safely.

  3. J Liedl

    Several years back I had a scary experience: a student told me of wiping out on the way into class. As she scrambled out of her distressed car in the ditch, another car came barreling off the road, out of control and right at her and her car. She jumped away further into the snowbank and was unhurt but. . . .

    So every winter term, i begin classes by telling students that I put a higher priority on safety than on attendance. If they don’t feel they’re safe coming in from one of our many satellite towns or even downtown? Just don’t. (If they miss an assigned presentation for that, they’re just supposed to let me know.) I’ve cancelled class for weather-related issue maybe four times in twenty years of teaching: I don’t do it frivolously.

    Sad thing is, if I was teaching at 2:30 instead of 8:30, I’d not have had to cancel class. Squalls have run their course, roads are plowed and traffic seems to be moving okay-ish. But there was no way I’d have wanted to risk the trek at 8:30 nor would I want my many off-campus students doing that.

  4. Ink

    Good choice to cancel. You’re so right about it ultimately making more work, though…

  5. I spoke too soon…snowing now!

    • J Liedl

      Oh, dangit, I’m sorry to hear that! The other week you guys got so much snow where we got a light dusting. It doesn’t seem fair you’d get all of this, too!