Thursday, January 23, 2014

What Social Media Tells Me on Snow Days

After Tuesday's epic-polar-vortex-snow-storm-pacalyse, NYC schools stayed open on Wednesday only to post the worst attendance numbers (47%) this school year. Luckily my school's network decided it'd be best to close Wednesday, so you can only imagine how incredibly lucky I felt.

The following morning, I basked in all the glory of a snow day by sleeping in a full two hours (crazy I know). Before fully waking up, I rolled over and grabbed my phone to check Facebook (shut up, you do the same). My feed was mostly dominated by teachers' angry posts about Mayor DeBlasio's decision to keep schools open. Those suckers, I thought.

Here's a snapshot of my teacher friends' social media posts from Tuesday night/Wednesday morning:

  1. Mayor DeBlasio, are you kidding me?????
  2. I knew it. NYC schools will be open tomorrow.
  3. Where is my Taun Taun? Mayor Dibloombergsio says that ny public is open.
  4. Not sure how I'm going to drive to work tomorrow, let alone get out of my parking spot... 
  5. Looks like I better prep for all ZERO kids who come to school tomorrow!
Of course, my teacher friends (and really, all NYC teachers) were in the right to bitch about DeBlasio's decision. Most of my teacher friends teach in high-needs neighborhoods, and attendance is usually shit anyway. In my experience, the majority of students from high-needs neighborhoods use whatever excuse they can to not come to school. I believe keeping schools open (particularly in these regions) during unsafe conditions actually devalues the school and demoralizes the few students who do actually come in.

Anyway, here's a snapshot of my former/current students' social media posts from Tuesday night/Wednesday morning:

  1. O nah, it's ova for skool 2mrrw
  2. n*gga snowwwwww you hearddddd
  3. good thing ma smart ass stayed home Tuesday too! 5 day wknd YA BOIIIII
  4. whos gettin smacked tonite!?!
  5. all i wanted was your attention but i couldnt even have that  <\3
Okay, that last one has nothing to do with anything, but it's so emo I couldn't help myself. Sorry kiddos, don't friend your teachers on Facebook: we'll use anything to brighten our day.

Now to the point: our country's education reform movement is obsessed with the idea of extending the school day and the school year; however, it's completely pointless if the school day and year are extended to only do the same things we're doing now (classroom instruction driven by irrelevant standards, then tested).

If we're just throwing more of the same at our students, then in the eyes of a student, school isn't a valuable tool to get smarter and change your life. For any teacher reading this: think about the last two weeks of a semester. Think about all of the students who suddenly care about their grade and demand you give them make-up work, despite their attendance, which has caused a large gap in content knowledge. Some of those students actually do complete the make-up work and redeem themselves. What does that mean? That means we don't fucking need 36 weeks (180 school days) of drill-and-kill classroom instruction. If it's important enough, kids will get their butts in line and learn the hardest shit in the shortest amount of time.

Instead of fretting about X days remaining in the school year, with Y standards left to teach, we should keep the "classroom" calendar short and sweet, maintaining school's "sense of urgency" and emphasizing how important time really is. Simultaneously, revamp the school calendar to include large chunks of internship programs, expeditionary learning trips, summer intensives, and other useful programs to engage students. Let them figure out what they want to learn first. They'll then come to us and demand, "teach me!" Then, the next time we have a psuedo-snow day, at least the students will feel like they've missed something they need.

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