(Trying to get this blog thing going again …)
As you probably know, Baltimore was hit last week by a pernicious pair of blizzards, dumping a total of 45 inches of snow on us, something this city has not seen in decades if not centuries. Although national news coverage focused more on the ‘snowpocalypse’ in Washington, DC, Baltimore and its surrounding counties were more heavily hit than our nation’s capital. This brought us briefly to the top of the list as #1 snowiest city for the 2009-2010 season, ahead of even Syracuse and Buffalo! Syracuse has now edged us back out for the top spot.
We lost all five days of school to the storms last week. This Tuesday (16th Feb), after the Presidents’ Day holiday, schools were still closed due to icy and unplowed roads, as well as unsafe conditions along sidewalks and bus stops. Even though school re-opened on Wednesday, with two-hour delays scheduled through the rest of this week, I think it’s clear that Baltimore City was not prepared to handle this amount of snow. Side streets remain plowed only enough to allow one lane of traffic at a time on a two-way street. Major thoroughfares that are usually three lanes in each direction only have room for one lane of traffic in each direction, due to piles of snow just pushed off to the side. Sidewalks are still not shoveled, leaving kids to walk in the street to get to school or their bus stop (and me to walk in the street to get to my car). Some pictures and commentary on the road/sidewalk situation are here.
As a teacher, I’m concerned about how this will affect what I’m able to teach. I’ve already thrown out the question on Twitter about how best to compress my curriculum in Algebra II with Trigonometry. I welcome any further feedback on this: which topics I could cut or skim by with just a pass, versus which topics are core ideas that need thorough investigation.
I’ve talked to my engineering teacher colleagues about how to condense some of the Principles of Engineering curriculum while still conveying the core ideas and experience of engineering in this survey/introductory course. What makes this one even more difficult is that I need to prepare my POE students for a standardized, end-of-course exam, while I create my own final exam for my A2T students.
If we were to make up all the (nine) snow days we have missed so far this school year, I would be less concerned about taking a hatchet to my curricula, because I would only have to account for the six half-days missed this year (from snow delays and early dismissals). But there are several indications that most of the instructional time missed due to snow will not be made up:
1) Last year, the 3-4 snow days we had were added to the end of the school year in June, after final exams were over and grades were turned in. There are always a few such days there anyway, nominally “regular school days”, but where student attendance drops down to 10% since courses and exams are over. These days are really (in everything but name) days for teachers to get ready for summer by packing up their rooms and completing several end-of-year record-keeping rituals. Since last year’s snow make-up days were added on at the end, without final exams being postponed, this led to an exorbitant seven(!) post-exam days with hardly any students. If we add our nine and counting snow days this year without delaying final exams, this will be wasted time.
2) Our state superintendent has already declared that she will approach the state school board seeking a waiver of the requirement that students attend school for 180 days.
So, here’s hoping that at least some of the days will be regained in an instructionally meaningful way! In the mean time, please contribute your thoughts here on what to cut and how to streamline my algebra and engineering curricula!