By Aliza Hammond
What images appear in your mind when you hear the phrase “snow day?” Perhaps your mind replays fond memories of sledding in the fresh white powdery-snow with your neighbors, the rush of warmth as you sip on steaming hot chocolate, or maybe just the sigh of relief when the phone would ring at 6 am indicating a day of rest – free from the stressors of a typical high school day. However, the modern use of the phrase “snow day” looks quite different to that of the previous description. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and schools’ newfound abilities to facilitate learning in a virtual environment, the concept of a “traditional snow day” has been altered in many areas throughout the nation, including here at Byram Hills High School. So, what does an asynchronous snow day entail? And even more importantly, how do BHHS students feel about this change?
An asynchronous snow day involves the assigning of virtual assignments by teachers and a time-sensitive completion of that work by students. This draws great contrast to a synchronous day, which would encompass students logging onto scheduled classes. Due to the new daily schedule at BHHS, students only attend five classes per day, in opposition to the previous years of about seven classes per day. Moreover, during asynchronous snow days, only the classes that would have been held on that designated schedule day are supposed to post work for their students’ completion. Therefore, students should expect five of their teachers to assign homework on each asynchronous day. There are certainly both positives and negatives to the asynchronous snow day that must be discussed.
Some students, including sophomore Samantha Gershuny, believe that asynchronous days ultimately take away from the relaxation and stress-relief components of the traditional snow day. She remarks that she is “constantly checking [her] email to make sure [she] completes each assignment [her] teachers have posted.” Gershuny also added that she believes her teachers sometimes assign more work on asynchronous snow days than she would have received on a normal day of school. Samantha is not alone: students across the BHHS community have expressed similar concerns regarding an overload of assignments on asynchronous snow days. Evidently, an overburden of work takes away from the historical feelings of a snow day, which included tranquility and recreation, and introduces a stressful and overwhelming connotation to the asynchronous snow day.
On the other hand, students also believe that the asynchronous snow day provides flexibility and a great balance between work and free time. Moreover, teachers assign work through the Google Classroom in the morning, which ultimately gives students the whole day to complete their work in any manner that they please, unless the work is due by a certain time that day. BHHS junior Hallie Gordon expressed that the asynchronous day provides flexibility because she is able to get all of her assignments completed during the course of the day, and she can enjoy “more time at night to hang out with [her] family and talk to [her] friends.” If it were a normal day of school, Gordon and other students would be completing their work throughout the evening and night, not granting them an opportunity to spend time with their family and friends. In addition, previous snow days took away from students’ spring break and holidays. However, the asynchronous snow day is able to be counted as a full day of school, thus not eliminating any holiday breaks in the spring. Therefore, even though students may feel overburdened on asynchronous days, it is reassuring to know that they will have the ability to enjoy more days off in the spring.
It is clear that there are many differing opinions circulating the Byram Hills community regarding the new asynchronous snow day. Ultimately, I believe that one’s opinions on the asynchronous day would depend largely on the amount of work assigned. If a student is only assigned a minimal amount of work, this would give them the ability to spend the majority of their day any way that they please, while still ensuring that they are progressing forward with the curriculum of each course. On the other hand, if students are assigned an overload of work, this would make them inclined to not enjoy the asynchronous snow day, for they do not have the freedom to spend their day recreationally. Either way, it seems as if the concept of the traditional snow day is fading, and the implementation of asynchronous days is slowly becoming our new normal. In 20 years, young students will likely not even know what the traditional snow day encompassed, and long recollections of fond memories of sledding in the fresh white powdery-snow with your neighbors, the rush of warmth as you sip on steaming hot chocolate, or maybe just the sigh of relief when the phone would ring at 6 am indicating a day of rest will be the only remnants of the snow day.