Monday, March 13, 2006

Not a snow day

It's snowing, and has been for hours now. Being still a relative noob about snow, I asked one of my more experienced colleagues if this counted as a blizzard. But she said no, except that it's windy... maybe if there were already a lot of snow on the ground and it were picked up by the wind and blown around a lot, but for now, no. I've never seen a blizzard; I guess I still haven't.

Northwoods U is defiantly NOT having a snow day, despite the fact that all the local K-12 schools and day schools are closed (which means that folks with younger kids are in a day care mess, of course). Since I got here this morning, I've been getting emails and phone calls from students to tell me they're not going to be in class. I have no problem with people deciding not to drive to class on a day like today.

I'm ambivalent about the phone calls, though, in ways I'm not about emails. Email is like a note in my box; I glance at it, drop a quick response if necessary, and I'm done. But a phone call by it's very nature demands more attention, and to be honest, that attention comes when I'm prepping for classes and such, and takes longer than an email. On one level, I appreciate that students care to let me know that they're not driving from the next town over or whatever; it seems a simple courtesy, and I appreciate it. On another level, I don't feel the need to get these calls. One one level, students should think I care, and I do care. But I still don't much care for these calls.

I guess part of the problem is that I can expect any number of calls or emails on a day like today. I teach some 75 students this term, and I don't really keep track of them closely. I certainly don't want them all to call.

On another level, I get the feeling that my students want my approval somehow. I really have no problem approving of people who decide not to drive 20+ miles in these conditions. But the calls also remind me of the calls from students who decide to go on vacation and want my approval or permission, somehow.

Thus, I suppose, my ambivalence. And then, of course, there's my guilt at being a bad person who doesn't cherish every call from my students.

My average speed driving in this morning was well under whatever speed limit there was. I drove down the hills in third (in my automatic transmission car). Usually, I tend to be impatient about speed limits, but not today. Today, 20 mph seemed excessive by far.

I cross a highway at a four way light on the way to work, and there I had cause once again to admire the way most Northwoodsians manage in the snow. I watched one woman in a HUGE SUV slide across the intersection, barely slowing, against a red light. She turned her head towards me, since my lane and the one next to it had the green, but we'd all waited, and she slid through without hitting anything or being hit. But as she turned towards me, her eyes were wide in that horrified way. It looked like she was giving play-by-play on the phone she held to her ear. I redoubled my efforts to drive carefully, and promised myself lots of stopping room, just in case.

For the writing class, I have planned perhaps six days over the term that need pretty much all students to be there in order to work at all.

One of those days is today. Could you guess?


  1. we didn't call it a snow day either, but I'd guess there are over 100 individual class cancelations posted...

  2. I didn't actually cancel any classes, but about half my students were absent from the lower division ones.

    Only a couple students missed the senior seminar. I think that may have to do with older students staying in town over the weekend, while first years tend to go home more, but I'm not sure.

    I'm glad we only had snow. South over the great plains, the tornadoes seemed especially bad.

  3. We had an unofficial snow day as well... I tend to agree abou the phone calls -- although my students didn't call this time. I'm sure they mis-read the website which has my class cancellations for next week. It will be kind of fun to see their surprise when they realize that I acutally covered material in class yesterday and they'll have to get notes from the 5 students who were there.

  4. Inside,

    I try to sympathize, but sometimes... the fact that most of our first year students live on campus makes that a tad hard on snow days.