We had a real-live-actual-genu-whine snow day last week. In fact, I write to you from my sunroom in Iowa City, looking out on the ten inches of snow piled onto our patio table on the deck. This kid from Minnesota finds solace in big piles of snow, even as this 42-year-old man (who spent a good chunk of his adulthood in Pennsylvania) grimaces at shoveling those big sloppy piles of wet snow off his driveway. Things are multiple. This is especially true as you get older. Both, and.
What do I mean by real snow day?
I’ve spent years in Pennsylvania. And a year in Iowa. These places were similar. A dusting of snow comes and the whole city shuts down. In Minnesota, school stayed open even if the Metrodome roof collapsed! Up hill both ways.
They’ve cancelled school a few times here in Iowa. Because of an inch or two of snow. But this time, in my humble opinion, cancellation was merited. I cancelled class at The University of Iowa too. Well, that’s not exactly right. I moved our class to an asynchronous learning day. This is not a phrase I would have understood before 2020. But now I’m well versed in using online course management systems to simulate pedagogy. I promise I’m not an AI Chatbot. Not yet, anyway.
Speaking of AI Chatbots, here’s a funny story about a disturbing incident.
I came home from class last week, before 10 inches of snow piled on my patio table and driveway, to news about the horrific events at Michigan State. Chilling. I can’t tell you how much I hate reading another horrific story about another horrific event such as what happened at Michigan State last week. I couldn’t stop thinking about it as I fell asleep. I’ve lived through countless lockdown drills at this point in my career as an educator.
Anyway, the next morning a friend of mine at another college let me know that they had received a mass email from their deans addressed to students, faculty, and staff. It was a long, heartfelt email about the important of staying together in the midst of horrifying events such as what had happened at Michigan State. Very warm, touching email. The only problem? The deans forgot to delete the note at the end that the email had been created by an AI Chatbot.
I fell out of my chair I was laughing so hard.
That seems to be the way of things for me right now. I either stay up late ruminating or I laugh myself off of chairs. I think laughter is the better way to react. But, as my hero Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, sometimes things get so bad that laughter is no longer a powerful enough coping mechanism. I’m no pundit, but I can tell you that the events at Michigan State last week were very, very bad.
A snow day is a pretty good coping mechanism. The snow piles up. Obligations are cancelled. Time slows down. The kids go out and build a snowman. I play video games and putz around on my computer. Things are quiet.
Lord knows I need some peace and quiet in the face of all the horrifying news that comes raging through my phone each and everyday. In the face of the very real challenges of learning how to navigate a new position. New people. New institutions. All the rest.
I’m surrounded by piles of white snow and sunlight as I write this blog. It’s cold outside. And quiet. And peaceful. Let a little bit of that peace in, I suppose, and keep moving forward.