Just as a record-warm February lulled us into a false sense of Spring, a snowy March swept in like, well, a snow storm. Two snow days and a two-hour delay later, some of my students lost over two and a half hours of Earth Science last week. The snow days arrived at the end of our unit on Rocks and Minerals. Initially, the students were destined for a rock lab and final rock and mineral lab quiz. However, as snow days erased instructional time from the calendar, I had to make adjustments. The new question became, “How do I assess my students’ understanding in two fewer days, with sporadic return attendance, and fewer minutes of in-class practice time?”
My CT, special education teacher, and I sat down to discuss our options. Ideas like pushing the schedule back by two days, online take-home tests, and re-teaching at the end of the year bounced around. Eventually we landed on a combination of all three: pushing our plans back by a day, assigning open-note online take-home tests for students who could not drive out in the snow, and planning for several days of re-teaching during regents review prep days in May. As teachers, we had to ask ourselves what was best for our students, and how they would learn most effectively in the time we have left.
The lost instructional snow days got me thinking about “seat time.” Particularly in small towns with unpredictable transportation and lax family cultures surrounding education, student attendance is often inconsistent. As teachers, there is very little we can actually do about getting our students through the door and into our classrooms. What we can control is what we do with the students who do make it through our doors. Everyday, we decide, “What can I do with these next 80 minutes?” As a new teacher, I am constantly discovering the importance of my actions in the classroom. In many school settings, I cannot depend on students finishing homework or attending class everyday, so the in-class labs and activities I design will probably be the only science that my students experience each week. As the weight of this responsibility falls heavy on my shoulders, I am reminded of the importance of education. As teachers, it is our job to make sure that all students learn and experience as they can during the fleeting few hours of they spend in our care.