Commentary: Forget Virtual Classes, Give Students “Sneaux Day” Off
Once the cold front began pushing into southern Louisiana on Thursday, school districts across the area announced they would close their campuses on Friday.
That comes as no surprise. After all, the infrastructure in Louisiana is not designed to handle extreme cold. That leaves students in danger of traveling to school on an icy road, of being stuck at a school with a heating failure, or being sent home early because of burst pipe or some other issue that shuts off water to the school.
What comes as a surprise is the decision by some districts to require their students and teachers to attend classes virtually while physical campuses remain closed.
Anyone who's paid any attention to Rob Perillo, Daniel Phillips, Dave Baker, and Bradley Benoit knew this was coming. In fact, the KATC weather crew predicted this freeze as early as Tuesday. That gave districts and their teachers enough time to prepare for an extended weekend and to give students assignments to take home and complete during any possible "sneaux days."
I'll bet anything that students and teachers alike began preparing for an extra day off as soon as they saw the first report of a possible hard freeze Thursday night into Friday morning. Some of those teachers probably had a few adult beverages after work on Thursday and woke up a little groggy Friday morning. Many of the students probably anticipated they'd be able to stay up all Thursday night and wake up late on Friday.
Some districts dashed those students' hopes and are making their hungover teachers go to work by ordering their schools to pivot to virtual learning. Here in Acadiana, St. Martin, Iberia, and Jeff Davis Parishes are requiring classes to meet via the internet. We're not sure if this is because of a lack of preparation on the part of these districts' leaders, a desire NOT to add days to the school calendar, or some other reason. What we are sure of is that this virtual learning day is preventing students in those parishes from learning important life lessons.
These lessons cannot be learned in the classroom, real or virtual. They are lessons that several generations of Americans have learned by sitting at home and watching television when school was canceled.
For example: The Price Is Right teaches children and teens how to be smart shoppers and the value of grocery items and other retail goods. Furthermore, The Price Is Right shows young people the pitfalls of listening to the crowd and not listening to your instincts.
A long, long time ago, my great-grandmother and I were watching The Price Is Right in her house. A contestant who was playing a game for a car hesitated and changed her guess of a price after listening to the audience boo her initial decision. The crowd was wrong, and the contestant lost. It turned out that the contestant's initial guess--and her gut--were right.
My great-grandmother turned to me and said: "Ian, don't be like that woman. Be your own man, and make your own decisions. Don't listen to the jackasses in the crowd."
It's a lesson that's stuck with me all these years later.
Another example: A kid who watches The People's Court may be inspired to go into the legal profession. In one hour, a young person can learn what the preponderance of the evidence is and why it's important to have any agreement put into writing. Furthermore, The People's Court and other legal programs teach students why it's important not to "take the law into your own hands" and why "you take 'em to court."
I could go on, such as explaining how this generation may never know the greatness that is Victor Newman and the awesomeness of having Mike Barras or Gary Arnold call your house to give you $10 for identifying the day's top news story, but you probably get the idea already.
On a more serious note: The lack of structure provided by a random day off like Friday gives students a chance to plot their own schedule and learn time management. How will they use the time in their bonus day off? Will they sleep a little later? Will they play video games? Will they devote more time to their school work in order to be done with it earlier? These may seem like simple questions with simple answers for adults. For children and teens, these questions will guide them in setting their priorities and learning from any mistakes they make in the process.
What's more: Requiring students to attend virtual classes during a freeze day or some other calamity sets a bad example for later in life. It shows that when disaster strikes, work is more important than protecting yourself, your family, and your home. Requiring attendance in the virtual classroom on a day like this will leave the impression in some of these students' minds that they must go to school or go to work even when it's physically impossible to do so lest they receive a demerit. This could cause today's kids to lead lives of unnecessary stress when they become adults.
On a day like this, school systems are better served to give students the day off. Classroom lessons can wait a day or a weekend. Let these kids experience the joy of having a random "sneaux day."