By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
When we went to bed last night, we didn’t think it would happen. We prepared the kids for the cold Monday morning school day that likely awaited them. But then shortly after 5 a.m., phones across our great land pinged with the most glorious of text messages: SNOW DAY!
Our oldest son was the first to see the text and promptly made the rounds to the rest of our bedrooms to share the joyous news, which was met with a groggy grunt and then an “Awesome” followed by a roll-over to resume sleep. Clearly, the Lord had heard the urgent prayers of kids across the tri-county area and granted what may be our only snow day of the year.
With no one to hurry up or issue reminders to, I, too, enjoyed the rare chance to sleep late, and I woke up grateful for the unexpected break from our daily routine. Even the dogs seemed extra happy as they made tracks across a fresh blanket of backyard snow.
I assumed I wouldn’t see any of the kids until noon-ish or so, or whenever hunger finally drove them out of bed. So, imagine my surprise when I opened the door to my home office and found my pajama-clad 12-year-old daughter sitting at my computer.
“You’re up? What are you doing? It’s a snow day,” I said.
“I’m doing math,” she said.
“But it’s a snow day,” I insisted.
“It’s a snow day assignment, Mom,” she said, struggling not to roll her eyes at my bewilderment.
“Oh, yeah,” I said, “I forgot about those.”
As I shuffled back to the kitchen for a cup of tea, I scrounged through my memory bank and came up with the faint recollection of a letter sent home from school months ago, a letter which outlined how technology would transform snow days into work-from-home days. As I finished my tea, the kids’ phones began pinging again, this time with reminders from teachers about which assignments they should tackle.
I made the rounds to check on each of the kids, assuming they’d be wound up with righteous anger at the injustice of it all. I had to admit that even I felt sorry for them. Aren’t snow days supposed to be synonymous with celebration – a chance to do nothing but sleep, eat, throw snowballs and sled down the nearest neighborhood hill?
But the kids seemed oddly resigned to their fate. Each one of them had received reminder texts about impending assignments, with one of the tasks being due by a certain time of day.
“So how does it work, Jack?” I asked our 14-year-old. “Do all the students have to email the assignment to the teacher by a certain time of day?”
(Heavy sigh.) “No, Mom. You just go to Google Classroom and you get the assignment, and then you use Google Forms to answer the questions, and then you submit it online,” he said. (I detected a hint of exasperation in his voice, as if he were explaining how to turn on a light switch.)
After several more of my dumb questions, I learned that Google Classroom is basically like a website where teachers post instructions or assignments (a virtual chalkboard, if you will). Google Forms is like a digital version of the paper worksheets teachers in pre-historic days used to hand out to me and my classmates. It’s a brilliant system, really. So efficient. So useful. But also? Such a snow day downer.
I don’t say this often, but when it comes to snow days, I had it so much better than my kids do. Back in my pre-Google day (a phrase that just aged me an additional 20 years), the only technology being used on a snow day was the television, which was either on cartoons or MTV. And there was no reason to get up before noon because there was nothing to do, no new assignments to read and no online worksheets to submit. Snow was a get-out-of-school-free card. We were beyond the grasp of our educators, and we loved it.
But today’s kids are technologically tethered not only to friends and Instagram but also to parents and teachers. Like it or not, kids are almost always reachable, and there are no snow banks blocking the Internet’s superhighway.
Apparently, technology does come with a price. So long, snow days. You were good while you lasted.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. You can read more of Gwen’s work by clicking here to visit The Rockwood Files.