Anybody who has attended or worked in a school in the UK will know how exciting it is when the winter brings the first snow, not so much because we love snow but because of the prospect of a Snow Day. This is a day when school is cancelled because of extreme weather. Often a school is closed due to broken heating or icy roads leading to the school which prevents school buses from reaching the campus, rather than the amount of snow on the ground. Whatever the reason for a snow day, I love them!
As a child I loved snow days as they got me out of the Spanish and Maths homework that I hadn’t done, and as a teacher I love them even more as they get me out of the marking that I haven’t done. Some things never change. In the UK snow days will generally occur once or twice in a bad winter and the procedure is always the same: set the alarm clock for the usual time but get ready at half speed whilst listening to the local radio as they tediously list all the school closures for the day. Wait with bated breath to hear the familiar name called out whilst hoping that you don’t get too far into the getting up procedure (once I didn’t hear the announcement until I was in my car 5 minutes away from the school gates – now that’s annoying!). Of course during this whole procedure you are furiously texting all of your colleagues ‘heard anything yet?’, ‘It’s really bad here, don’t think I can drive’, ‘Have you left the house yet?‘, ‘If school is cancelled do you wanna meet for lunch?’ And then there’s the glorious feeling of liberation when you finally realise that you are indeed free for the day.
At first you think of the neglected pile of marking that has been staring at you from the corner of the room since the beginning of last week – a snow day would be the perfect opportunity to catch up, right? And then you remember that rumour you heard about how teachers are supposed to go to the nearest open school and help out when you can’t get to your own school. These thoughts pass quickly, how often do you get to go out and play in real snow? Opportunities should be taken!
I am aware that I run the risk of starting up the old argument between teachers and non-teachers here. You know how it goes…
‘Teachers are always trying to get out of work. Everybody else has to go to work when it snows’
This is true and I can understand why they say this but have you ever seen how one child behaves when it’s snowing? Try controlling 33 of them like that for even an hour. If you are successful then you can judge me for wishing for a day off school when it snows. Even here in Sweden, where they have 6 months of constant snow every year, the kids get excited when it starts. They still rush to the window pointing and shouting, they still sneak snow into the hallways and throw it down their friends’ backs, and they still throw snowballs at windows and at each other’s heads.
Sweden does not have snow days. If they did then the kids may well be off for a week or so every month from October – March. There are many reasons why they don’t have snow days: roads are gritted throughout the winter, heating in school buildings is excellent (the kids come to school wrapped up like the Michelin man and then walk around the school in vest tops or short skirts) and many kids come to school on the tunnelbana (like the Underground) which is usually pretty reliable through the winter. Snow slows things down but does not bring them to a complete standstill. So imagine my surprise and delight this morning when I fought my way through a raging blizzard to school only to find that many of the students hadn’t. As a result Year 9 was sent home and my only classes of the day cancelled by 9am. A snow day of sorts! My thoughts immediately turned to that large pile of unmarked Year 7 work.
And then quickly turned away again.
Unfortunately my snow day did not turn out to be as good as I’d hoped: on checking the train timetable it transpired that the next train to bear me homeward was not leaving for another 4 hours. In fact it was the train that I usually take on a Friday so no early home time for me. Normally there would have been 2 trains before that time but they were cancelled. In the UK we look to Sweden as a beacon of hope that one day our slow British trains will be able to withstand the raging snow but it seems that sometimes even Sweden’s best efforts are bested by Mother Nature. Fair play to them for keeping it so quiet though, who knew?! Things would not improve on arrival at the train station either – after sitting on the train for 1 hour and 20 minutes the train had still not left the station and when it did it limped pathetically through the whitewashed countryside like the sad lizard that expired by my cooker in Vietnam. This whole adventure meant that I spent 10 hours out of the house for working only 30 minutes. That’s got to be some kind of a record.
Oh well. At least I can say that I got a snow day in Sweden. And all the Year 7 assessments got marked on the train 🙂