‘Miss, will we get a snow day tomorrow?’

This week I have loved every minute of teaching Geography. I’ve felt like a proper Geography teacher and not the driving force of an exam factory lesson. From Year 8 to Year 12 I’ve ditched the schemes of learning and the carefully planned and scheduled sequences of lessons that ensure we cover the course content with time to revise. I’ve taught about the only thing the students want to talk about – snow!

Usually I don’t interrupt the topics we teach for the latest ‘Geography in the News’ item. I file away the news reports and video clips on YouTube for when we come to looking at the related topic later in the year. But this week was different. This week was an opportunity to show the students the Physical Geography they usually see as irrelevant to life in a city was having a real impact on their lives in a way that stopping to teach about an earthquake in another country never will. The knowledge and understanding of atmospheric circulation and air masses and pressure systems was no longer an abstract theory but something they could use to answer their friends when the asked if tomorrow would be a snow day.

We’ve drawn maps of the UK and looked at air masses. We’ve talked about what caused Storm Emma and why the weather forecast has kept changing. We’ve talked about why this snow is different from the snow we had before Christmas and, most importantly, why this snow makes better snow balls! We’ve flipped the conversations and talked about other extreme weather in the UK from heatwaves to flooding. We’ve been out in the school grounds looking at clouds and snow flakes. We’ve drawn diagrams with our feet in the snow to explain weather systems. We’ve stood at the entrance to our school site as the snow fell to see how snow changes our perceptions of place.

There’s been a buzz about the classroom and Geography has become real and relevant for the students in a way I wish I could make happen every day. Even the disappointment at the end of lessons when they’ve worked out tomorrow won’t be a snow day hasn’t seemed to have dampened their enthusiasm this week.

But the icing on the cake was this afternoon when one of the Year 9s came to find me to tell me ‘Storm Emma is moving northwards Miss. We’re back in the yellow area. It might happen tomorrow. We might get a snow day! I never realised Geography would ever be about things that really mattered!’

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