I love snow. There is something comforting in its pillowy flutter, its angelic hush. The soft haze it adds to the outdoor Christmas lights is enough to make me want to keep driving in dangerously cruel weather. Watching it fall outside my window surrounded by my lit Christmas tree & candle light is one of the best ways I can think of to spend an evening. And of course, snow is the messenger of Snow Days, those most hallowed of days when teachers and students alike celebrate their luck at being the only sector of the population to be told to celebrate the wintry weather by staying home to watch tv and enjoy hot chocolate in their pjs all day. Hey, you could’ve been a teacher.
But what’s a teacher to do when two Snow Days come the week before Winter Break? Only three days left in the week to rein in the brains of kids who for all intents and purposes are already on vacation. Do you cram your lessons to fit the three days and work your kids to the bone while fighting off Holidayitis? Or do you give in and just show the darn movie for three class periods? It’s both a philosophical and practical decision. Will what you decide have long lasting effects on your students’ learning? Probably not. But it’s hard to justify wasting an entire week of instructional time just because Mother Nature decided to turn our region of the country into a Winter Wonderland.
Like all teaching decisions, what a teacher decides will depend on his/her philosophy and his/her ability to adapt to any situation at a moment’s notice. I don’t believe showing a movie is a sin against education as long as there is some instructional merit linked to it. Yes, your kids will whine, “can’t we just watch it to watch it?”, and as the professional educators we are, we will grin, make a sarcastic comment about the value of education, and proceed as planned. Of course there is some personal greed to this compromise as well. No doubt your brain is fried at this point in the semester and you could use some “down time” to catch up on grading, tweak your midterm exam, or plan for the end of the semester. There’s not shame in that either. A movie can be an exceptional teaching tool, especially in this day and age where our students are constantly stimulated via all types of media that are not pen and the page. But there is a responsibility to make sure your movie is connected somehow to your content or instruction and that there is an appropriate assignment to correlate with that content and instruction; not doing so is hard to justify, especially during a time in which teachers are constantly under scrutiny. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of defending my job & my paycheck, especially when the criticism is in response to the poor decisions a small number of teachers make.