With the adoption of Zoom, teachers have been finding creative solutions to imitate a classroom environment virtually. The app has features such as reactions, breakout rooms, and screen sharing capabilities, which are utilized to achieve some sense of normalcy. This normalcy is paired with the notion that class can be attended from anywhere at any time as long as the participant has the proper Meeting ID and passcode.
While this is perfect for those early morning class discussions you want to join five minutes after you wake up, it seems to have eliminated the ‘snow day’.
Snow days were considered a prized commodity, one in which students would put spoons in the freezer (a ritual that allegedly encourages snowfall), wear pajamas inside out, and watch the news feverishly in the hopes of waking up to large amounts of snow that would prohibit them from going to school.
Snow days were a perfect blend of venturing outside to sled or have snowball fights and offered much needed time to catch up on work. These breaks from classes also have tremendous benefits regarding one’s mental health.
Classes being online, regardless of the status of the weather, has deprived students of that valuable time.
Some teachers have chosen to recognize this necessary break, providing students with the day off regardless of the ability to have class online. Professor Ricardo Padron, a Spanish and Engagements curriculum professor, is one of those teachers. He said that “the pandemic has made serendipitous joy very hard to come by. Almost all of our interactions with others are predictable, because they are part of our regular routine or they are formally arranged.
“We no longer run into friends on the street. There are no chance encounters with interesting strangers. No amount of socializing on Zoom can replace that, leaving us emotionally impoverished.”
This sentiment is shared by many students, parents, and mental health professionals who argue for the implementation of mental health days as a way to replace snow days. The addition of mental health days at The University of Virginia were a result of the loss of Spring break, but is this enough?
Professor Padron’s Engagements class ‘You are Here’ was previously in-person, and when the snow day was announced, rather than moving class online, he decided to cancel class entirely. Professor Padron made this decision because he feels that “a snow day is like a Christmas gift from back when we still believed in Santa Claus”.
“It takes us back to the unadulterated joy we felt as children when we suddenly, miraculously, had a day off that we could spend sledding and having snowball fights, with no thought of homework, no need to catch up, as we would if it were a sick day,” said Professor Padron. “That sort of joy is something we all need right now.”