Last week, it started to rain on Wednesday night. It kept raining—hard—through Thursday morning. The steady downpour filled creek beds and farmers’ fields. It filled rivers to levels higher than ever recorded in the area.
On Thursday that the county was determined to be in a state of emergency, which was not surprising as roads and bridges in the area were closing. A river that normally moves a thousand cubic feet of water in an hour was moving twenty-five thousand cubic feet per hour, according to one official.
The kids had an early dismissal from school on Thursday and went home safe and sound. School was cancelled for us—and most of the area—through Friday. As a teacher, I guess it’s typical of me to be worried about missing a scheduled spelling test and making sure that I stuck to my lesson plans for the coming week, despite this surprise day off. But I’m worried for the families too. I know that many of the farmers could not get their hay in on time due to the wet summer we’ve had. The same goes for the corn, which sets out in the fields golden, ready to harvest, but is in danger of rotting in the field if this wet, cold season continues into the fall.
Now, the interesting thing was that with all of this happening, students continued to learn and interact. Our school is one of many in the nation that uses Moodle. Moodle is a simple to use, free online classroom management system that allows teachers and students to post information, take tests, and interact with each other online. You might think of it as Facebook for the classroom.
A high school teacher I work with added me to her class’s Moodle so that, from time to time, I could help her use the system. As a result, I get copies of the student’s conversations sent to my email. With half of the county underwater and the school closed, at least six students logged on and posted their work on Friday. Much of what teachers do, such as lecture, cannot be done using an online classroom. And in our rural area, not every student has reliable Internet and many use dial-up. But online options like Moodle are good at giving teachers the “snow day insurance” that work can get done even if school is closed.