Inclement weather takes many forms: bitter cold, hurricanes, tornadoes, excessive heat, floods…just about any weather event can turn into a school-closing inclement weather event very quickly. As teachers, we probably welcome the idea of an occasional happy day spent snug at home just as much as our students do. But the issue is far more complicated for us than it is for our students. Here are some things to think about the next day you have to miss school due to inclement weather.
• Be the responsible adult in the room and temper your personal enthusiasm for a day off—at least in front of your students. Not every student welcomes a snow day. For some, home is not the comfortable, safe haven that school should be. There may not be enough food or heat or the family dynamic may be dysfunctional. Be mindful of this as you help students manage the time away from school.
• Loading students up with homework or rushing them through a lesson is not the most productive way to catch up on missed work. Instead, be sensible. A little here and there over a few days of class will result in more learning and less stress for everyone. Shift your plans instead of rushing.
• Even if the time away from school is only one day, spend a few minutes reminding kids about the information from the previous class. Activate their prior knowledge. Get them back into the routine of thinking about school. Spending a few minutes on this will save you a great deal of time in the long run.
• Before demanding that homework be completed, check to make sure that your students have access to power and a place to work.
• If you have a class Web page or another way to communicate with students, touch base with them while they are not in school. Remind them what they need to bring to class. Remind them what the day’s schedule will be like. Communicate with them so that they can be as prepared for a productive return as possible.
• It’s always a good idea to leave your desk clean at the end of the day, but during the months when weather may make school difficult, it’s important to leave your classroom in good shape just in case you need a sub. Have a set of emergency plans, class rolls, seating charts, and anything else you can think of ready just in case you can’t get to school.
• Be kind. Ask kids what they did while they were not in school. If the weather event is extreme, they will want to share stories. Shared stories and good listening build a positive class atmosphere.