Friday, January 16, 2009

Snow Day--Hooray

Before any of you call me on the title of this post, I know that today was technically a "cold day". That means that for at least an half an hour this morning the outside temperature with the wind chill was twenty degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) or colder. At that temperature the schools of this area fear that folks waiting for buses can get colder than is healthy. I know that those of you who live and have always lived in warmer climates are thinking that we wait too long to make this call. Likewise, those of you who live where zero is called a heat wave think we are a bunch of sissies here. Make more comparisons when you realize that we here in Southeast Michigan keep kids in for recess at 10 above zero.

Snow day sounds more exciting than cold day. And it is. On a cold day parents have little or no excuse other than kids suddenly stuck at home to call off from work. On a cold day no one is rushing outside to make snow angels. On a cold day the cabin fever that has been haunting us at school simply moves home with you. On a snow day there are those snow angels, snowmen, and sledding hills waiting to offer entertainment. Parents can call off work by blaming the icy roads if they are covered with snow and often by noon there is a path through the snow to a friend's house.

For teachers, either variety of day off is appreciated. Yes, it is a holiday for all the students but it is a gift to teacher's as well. Lesson plans are already done, so with no students around there is little that is directly school related that has to be done immediately. Just like students, we luxuriate in sleeping in, goofing off, and reading a good book.

A good book to read on these days might be about warm and sunny places, but if you have a good furnace or a roaring fire and a snugly blanket try Blizzard! by Jim Murphy. This non-fiction reads as compellingly as the best novel, using first person accounts of the blizzard that paralyzed the Northeast from Maine to Delaware in March of 1888. Not only will you learn about the course of the storm but also about life at the end of the 19th century. I was most moved by the story of the young girl who, in her finest clothes and little soft shoes, heads off for her first solo train trip. Things go from bad to worse as the snow blocks the tracks and the passengers have to choose between the snow and bitter cold or the fires that started from swinging lanterns in the cars. If you are in grade 5 or up, you will find this to be an interesting and, as at least one review said, chilling tale. Find out more about this book and others by Jim Murphy at his official site. To warm up, read his The Great Fire about the great Chicago fire.

Adults, if you want to read about blizzards try The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin which talks about the blizzard that swept across the Great Plains in January of 1888. It is a gripping story that will make you double check that your child does not leave home on a cold day without coat, hat, mittens, boots, and all the other winter weather necessities. 1888 must have been quite the winter for wild weather.

Keep warm.

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