Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Snow: Do we give up too easily?

During the snow in February 2009 I had a rant about how easily schools closed and how this sets a bad example to our children. “...What it says to them is that when things get tough we just give up...” I fear I must vent again!

This morning my 6 year old was crying because, at 7am, there had not been an announcement that his school was closed. There was snow so he assumed that school would close. This is the example he has been set so this is now what he expects. By 7.30 the inevitable announcement had been made.

I’ve just read on the website that the school will be closed again tomorrow and I am disappointed. This snow is not a surprise. We have had plenty of warning. Other people are managing to get around, with care. Why can’t teachers get to work? Why can’t a skeleton staff open up for those pupils who can get in? I know some will say there’s a health and safety risk, someone might fall in the playground etc – but these days there’s always a health and safety excuse if you want one.

Why did the school not spend today preparing, such as gritting the playground and surrounding pavements? Why can’t they show some initiative and be adaptable. For example, why not start later, to give people more time to get in? Why not ask pupils to bring packed lunch? To give up and close with so little effort sets a poor example of perseverance, something I discussed in more detail in my February 2009 post.

The media don’t help. The morning news was full of melodrama and drastic advice – “don’t take your journey unless it’s absolutely necessary...” Do they consider the responsibility of going to work absolutely necessary? With this being said on the news, it becomes too easy for everyone to absolve themselves from even trying.

Maybe I feel like this because I’ve lived in countries where people cope in snow much deeper than this for months at a time. Maybe I feel like this because my parents have always been self-employed so I’ve grown up with a strong work ethic and an understanding of what it means to be entirely responsible for your business, every day, whatever the circumstances. For us, today, work had to go on. We run day nurseries and all three were open – with full credit to our staff who made huge efforts to get in. We feel a duty to the parents to stay open so that they can go to work. Why can schools not show the same care? They close and this impacts on all the working parents.

I am very aware that many of these decisions are taken by the council rather that the schools. But it’s too easy for some distant civil servant to declare all schools closed without any thought about what this really means. I’m sure some of you will tell me that roads are treacherous and it’s irresponsible to be out. That may be so in some areas, but around here, things really aren’t that bad. Most of the pupils could walk to school - something that is endlessly discussed in assemblies when they are promoting the health and environmental benefits of walking to school!

I'm not entirely miserable, I can appreciate that it's wonderful to be able to spend the day pottering at home and playing in the snow, but I do believe there is a bigger issue and that the collective reaction to snow is unfortunate. Yes, there’s more effort involved when our world is covered in snow, but what is teaching all about? Why, as a society, do we not try and persevere through adversity any more?

Ps, in February 2009 I gave credit to our milkman, Dave, who didn’t miss a delivery. At 4am this morning, Dave was out in the snow leaving our milk by the gate. Well done Dave, and thank you!


Mummy Zen said...

I agree with you totally! It does seem like the slightest bit of snow brings everything to a standstill. People don't seem to want to make any effort to do things differently in order to deal with the weather, whilst still going about their day-to-day lives. There are plenty of countries for whom snow is a major part of winter and of course they don't just give up on school, journeys and whatever else. Just because it is a less common occurence here doesn't mean we shouldn't be prepared and have efficient ways to cope when we do get snow.

Motherhood and Anarchy... said...

Thanks for commenting Mummy Zen. It's good to know someone else agrees with me as I sometimes wonder if I'm just a miserable old bag!

Linda left an interesting comment on BMB which I will post here too as I would love to see what others think about this issue.

Anonymous said...

From Linda Jones on BMB - Our primary school remains open through thick and thin, the head is very determined. The same with my best friend's, but last year a mum slipped and broke her ankle in the playground so they closed the next day. They can't win - close and people say 'they should be getting on with it' and stay open and people have to travel adding to road congestion/injuries etc.

Motherhood and Anarchy... said...

Thanks for commenting Linda. It would be great to hear what other mums think. I do understand the difficulties. What I object to is how quickly and easily they close.

I'm not saying that people should be foolhardy but I don't think we should teach our children that whenever there is a risk they should give up. I think schools could have made more effort to be open today. With more snow forecast for the weekend, how long are they planning to stay closed? What about children who have exams to prepare for?

Anonymous said...

I think some schools do give in easily, especially the small schools, but I have to admit that Amy's school has been fair this time in only making announcements on the day and realising that a lot of their pupils come from far and wide, including us. They've had to cancel school buses and taxes too. But yes, it doesn't set a good example for the kids.

CJ xx

Motherhood and Anarchy... said...

Hello CJ. How is the farm in all this snow? Closing a school sounds fair enough if most pupils come from long distances but ours is a village school where most pupils could walk.

It's a beautiful day here but my little ones don't want to go out as they get too cold (it was minus 13 this morning!). So I'm feeling very trapped and frustrated I can't get out and enjoy it myself. Instead we have made a huge lego train track!

Mother Courage said...

I remember many years ago, as a primary schoolteacher, leaving the car at home, catching two buses then wading knee-deep in snow for a half-mile trudge in order to get to school. The headmaster, too, had managed the trip and he lived much further away. We were the only teachers to arrive. About a hundred children turned up, so we were able to have lots of fun and games in the hall. Most of their parents were working. They managed to get to their places of work. I sometimes wonder whether teachers would give up so easily if they missed a day's pay every time their schools closed.

Motherhood and Anarchy... said...

Thank you very much for this comment Mother Courage. It's great to hear a teacher's perspective, and great to hear that some are prepared to persevere and adapt and make the most of different circumstances! It would be so refreshing to see schools doing this sort of thing now.

But I do wonder how much of the decision is left to the schools and how much is dictated to by the council. On our school website it says that all schools in the district are closed for the "safety and welfare of all pupils and staff". To me that is such an easy cop out. It's patronising too. Can't people be trusted to take extra care? And why can't the circumstances of each school be considered on an individual basis? These are the sort of issues which make me lose sympathy for the schools/councils in these situations.