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NOT a Snow Day –Thanks to Email! 

by Kim Bochicchio

In Northeastern Pennsylvania the snow begins flying in early November, late October this year, and doesn’t let up until mid April. Snow days are a disruption to the educational process, but often the roads are too treacherous for safe transportation of students.  What is a teacher to do?

Faced with the dilemma of an impending snow storm and the need to teach parenthetical citation and works cited page for research papers, I did the only thing I could think of.  On the day before the snow storm which promised to dump over seven inches of snow on the area and definitely cancel school, I briefly taught the parenthetical citation and works cited page to my 9th- and 11th-grade English classes, including handouts containing step-by-step procedures.

 I knew my students would have questions as they completed these tasks at home; that is where technology stepped in. Armed with my email address, students were able to tackle both parenthetical citations and works cited pages, because help was just an email away. I was able to monitor the progress of the students through frequent emails and also assist them in finding additional sources when necessary. Throughout the day and evening emails flew back and forth. 

“Help,” wrote one student, “I can’t find an author on this website.” Attached to the email was the website.  He was correct, there was no author.  In an instant he wrote back, “No author, so I start with the title, right?” And right he was. 

Another student wrote to ask if I had any ideas of websites that would better explain the topic of her research paper to her.  I searched the dot gov (.gov) sites, found a more accessible explanation of very difficult to comprehend Supreme Court case, and forwarded the link.  After a few hours, she emailed her thanks and a few paragraphs about the case that she now understood better.

Soon it became apparent to me that students who are normally afraid to ask questions in class because they fear ridicule will readily ask questions in an email that is only seen by the teacher.  My online classroom proved to be a success. 

Well into Friday evening, when most students would rather be hanging out at the hamburger place or eating pizza with friends, the emails kept coming in.  The questions were as diverse as the students.  Some questions were very simple to answer and others required several emails to figure out.  The students who participated seemed to have a great time and I was amazed at the progress they made.

As a teacher who was initially skeptical about integrating technology in education, I have come to realize that the computer can be a wonderful tool in the process and exchange of information.  Used for the right purposes, technology can help students learn about finding reliable information for research papers and distinguishing between bias and unbiased sources. And when appropriate, email can allow the students access to the teacher after the school day ends, and remove the barrier of fear that some students feel about asking question during class.

Initially, I thought that having a webpage was the best way for students to have access to class work; however I found that many students do not visit my class website; others do visit, but still have questions about the work posted.  Through email, I am now accessible to answer questions and help these students.

So, the next time the weatherman announces, “Well kiddos, stay in bed a few hours longer, the snow is flying and school is canceled,” I know learning will still go on for my students, thanks to email.

Kim Bochicchio is an English teacher at Dunmore High School, Dunmore, Pennsylvania.

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