Tag Archives: snow


[Back today, on a two-hour-delay, after two snow days off, for a start to a new semester and new courses. This semester, by the way, I am teaching Principles of Engineering and AP Calculus.]

Cold classrooms & burst water pipes have been the norm the last few weeks at my school.

I am one of the lucky ones whose classroom heater usually works (noisily, but at least it provides heat). Several colleagues have bought multiple space heaters (paid for out of their own pockets) just to keep their classrooms tolerable. Other teachers have pretty much moved shop for the season into different classrooms, ones that do have heat. I’ve heard of three water pipes freezing & bursting over the past three weeks – one that flooded an entire floor of the building, one that flooded the auditorium, and one today in the aerospace engineering room next to mine (which we’re currently using for equipment storage – I couldn’t imagine teaching in that room with temperatures as low as they’ve been!). While working on the biggest pipe break, water was turned off to 3/4 of the building and restrooms were out of order, for a period of several days.

Students from my school, including several whom I teach, have written letters to the school superintendent (CEO) and local newspaper.

I know we’re not alone. There is a similar situation at other city schools, including Epiphany in Baltimore’s. “This is an education equity issue,” he writes. I wholeheartedly agree.


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Snow Day!

What it’s like on the morning of most snow days:

Check the weather the night before. Think we’ll probably have a snow day since Maryland schools tend to close for anything above a dusting of snow. Check the school closings and see a few counties and/or private schools have called it already.

Have a hard time getting to sleep, as visions of snowstorms dance through my head.

Wake up too early (2am today, sometimes as late as 3 or 4, but invariably before my 4:30-5:30 normal routine). Check for updates on weather and closings, but don’t find any because it is too early for them to make the call.

Find something to do to kill time — watch a TV show, read news, read through my twitter feed for interesting articles. In addition, have three tabs open that I’m refreshing every few minutes: Foot’s Forecast Central Maryland facebook page, my Maryland twitter list, and WBAL’s school closings list.

Slowly see the closings trickle in from the other counties (i.e. school districts). Start to think it’s very likely we’ll be closed since all the other counties are closed, but Baltimore City Public Schools waits until the last possible second to make the call, and has thrown me for a loop before. The tension mounts.

Start to wonder if I should make coffee, shower, & otherwise get ready for work, since Baltimore City still hasn’t called it. Delay past the time I normally would get out of bed since there’s still a chance for them to call it off.

After almost resigning myself to going in, refresh one last time and see BCPSS is closed! Usually called at approximately 5:29am, and the last of all the surrounding counties.

Celebrate that I get a snow day. Hooray!


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Today is our third snow day in a row. While I am impatient to get the new semester started, I understand that many people are still without power (according to BGE, this storm while only 10″ created more power outages than our 45″ last February), the streets and sidewalks are very slippery, and some side streets are still not plowed. Today would also have been not so good as a kick-off to the new classes and new semester, with the combination of snow and Friday-after-four-days-off creating low attendance. So I look forward to meeting my new students and having an amazing first day on Monday.

In my time off, I’ve created multimedia syllabi with Prezi for both my Algebra 2 / Trigonometry (A2T) and Principles of Engineering (POE) classes. Also, I appreciate the feedback and comments on my A2T and POE skills lists, and I’m still making modifications to those lists, so any additional conversation is welcome!

Have a joyful day!


Filed under engineering, math, teaching

Iced In

Yesterday school was closed in Baltimore City and the surrounding counties due to active sleet + freezing rain, and icy conditions. What with Martin Luther King Day on Monday, a professional development held at Morgan State University for me today, and the possibility of another storm coming Thursday night into Friday morning, this could end up being a 1 day week for me! Not, of course in terms of me only working one day: I worked significant amounts on Tuesday while iced in, today was a full day that began with a 6:15 trip to the office (i.e. school), and Friday will include time spent grading and preparing for the new semester courses no matter what else it entails. But Thursday might be the only day this week I interact with students [in person].

Often when there are snow days, I try to communicate with students by e-mail, about something they can be doing to keep up the work in my class. Certainly not every student has access to the internet or checks his/her e-mail on a snow day, so the e-mail contains a suggestion or extra-credit assignment, not required work.

This Tuesday communication was especially important as it was the last review day before final exams. So I sent out the following pair of e-mails to my Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) class:

E-mail #1

Hi CIM students!

Due to the bad weather, I won’t get a chance to see you all today, so I’m writing down a few reminders.

1) I’m beginning to go through and grade your online portfolios now.

2) Your Handshaking Project Reports (which were to be due today at 2pm) need to be turned in by noon on Friday. I will grade leniently and have given you this extension because of the snow day today, but since each group has at least three members, you absolutely should be able to complete the reports you’ve already begun and submit them before the quarter ends.

3) Our final exam is Thursday 9:10 – 10:40am. Make certain you arrive on time, and don’t forget to bring pencil, eraser, and a 1-page (8.5″x11″) single-sided sheet of handwritten notes which you will be allowed to use during the exam.

Hope you’re all enjoying the icy weather, and see you Thursday!

Mr. Yates

E-mail # 2

Also, for the iced/snowed-in, here are two CIM-related videos you might enjoy:

1) A clip on the TV show Bones where they use rapid prototyping (stereolithography) to add layers that build up a full skeleton is at http://www.hulu.com/watch/187164/bones-the-bones-that-werent#x-0,vepisode,1,0 from the 10:40-12:15 time slot (Note: video link will expire in two days). A critique of that clip, with photos of a real 3D printer recreating King Tut is at http://i.materialise.com/blog/entry/the-tv-show-bones-science-on-tv-the-largest-3d-printers-in-the-world .

2) A video here (http://boingboing.net/2008/12/19/bbtv-unicorn-chaser-1.html) shows Chris Yates (no relation) using a laser CNC machine to cut out robots (final product here http://www.chrisyates.net/reprographics/index.php?page=711).

Mr. Yates

Do you do anything work-related on snow days, or just relax in the day off?


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Snow Daze Update

As a follow-up to my post on the Baltimore Blizzard of February 2010, our school superintendent (CEO) finally announced Wednesday how we were going to make up the snow days.  Almost two months to the day after the storm hit. And, guess what?

I predicted it!

Not a single one of the nine snow days will be made up instructionally!

I said:

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.

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.

In fact, this is indeed what came to pass.  Our school district’s superintendent/CEO got approval from the state superintendent and school board to waive (cut) five days outright.  The other four days were added after final exams.  The last day of school has been postponed to June 16th from the originally-scheduled June 10th, but final exams still begin for students on the same day as planned:  June 7th.

To make things more annoying, in their Wednesday announcement the district decided to extend third quarter by a week, even while (effectively) not extending the school year.   And when is the best time to make such an announcement, delivered in a letter to students, parents, and teachers?  Rather than allow teachers time to plan ahead for the quarter transition, why not wait until the afternoon of the (originally-scheduled) last day of third quarter, by which time teachers had been instructed to already have administered midterm exams, tally up grades for students’ third quarter work, and enter those grades in the online grade reporting system?

Not to sound cynical or anything 🙂

Ah, the absurdities of the Baltimore City Public School System!  To clarify, extending the third quarter is not absurd.  This translates to us having 40 instructional days in third quarter (really more like 37, due to the six half days that nobody even thinks of making up), and 36 instructional days in fourth quarter (well, less really, due to the state standardized testing days in there).  What is absurd is 1) throwing make-up-snow-days on to the year after final exams when courses are over, and 2) notifying teachers of the change in quarter dates on the last day of the quarter.  As Epiphany in Baltimore said the day he got the news, “It was a frustrating day to teach in Baltimore City today.”


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Snow Daze

(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!


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