What do you do when every school district except yours declares a snow day? You drive in, listening to the mayor say stay off the roads. It's dangerous! You ponder the irony that it's dangerous for radio listeners, but apparently not for 1.1 million public school kids or their 80,000 teachers.
On Tuesday, Jan. 11, I got a call from my daughter's school in Freeport N.Y. informing me it would be closed the next day. Mayor Bloomberg, in his inimitable style, waited until 5 a.m. on Jan. 12 to declare that city schools were open. Delayed opening? Not for NYC. That's for wusses, and their schools were closed anyway. In Mayor Bloomberg's New York, you show on time no matter what. (Unless you're the chancellor.)
Crazy people like me, along with fewer than half of NYC's students, came in. So what do you do with the hearty souls who show up on a day like that?
What are you doing right now?
I told my kids I was giving them a quiz. They were horrified. I mean, here they were, while all their friends were home having big fun, and they were not only stuck in my miserable class, but also being punished for it with a pop quiz. It was outrageous! Elsewhere kids were playing hangman, or shuffled into the auditorium with all the others whose teachers had the good sense to have stayed home.
What color was George Washington's white horse?
After a while, though, the hostility lessened. The quiz was less odious than anticipated. In fact, my kids, all newcomers from other countries, had never heard the question about Washington's horse before, and were quite amused by it. Who'd have imagined such a thing?
Who'd like to suggest the next question?
What's your name?
No one missed that one. Actually, when you let kids know you value their input, they seem to appreciate it. They don't often get to suggest test questions, and given the sort they prefer, it's understandable. Yet after driving in, waiting hours in the freezing cold for a bus, train or both, it's not an ordinary day.
Who's the best?
After a few questions, some kids thought it was me. Most opined they themselves were the best, and a few paid homage to their parents. Yet no one was wrong. It was an opinion question. Were I answering, I would've written the name of one of my colleagues, an English teacher who suggested giving ridiculously easy quizzes as compensation for showing up on ridiculously difficult days. In 26 years it had never occurred to me. It struck me as brilliant -- a rare instance of justice from teachers, many of whom proclaim, "Life isn't fair" on a regular basis.
"It's time to go home." That was technically incorrect, but I deemed it opinion, so I marked it right anyway. It certainly wasn't time for me to go home. Right after that class, I noticed my poor car plowed in, under a mountain of snow. Going home was going to be a multi-stage process. I was not alone, as every other car along that street, which Mayor Bloomberg hadn't bothered to plow before calling us in, suffered the same sad fate.
How are you?
Another mind-buster. After the ridiculous quiz, we reviewed a little. You can't really introduce new material on these days. That would hurt kids who didn't show up, and honestly, you can't penalize kids for being smart enough to stay home when there's a foot of snow on the ground.
Still, if Mayor Bloomberg thinks we're cowboys, the least we can do is offer our kids whatever frontier justice we can muster.