It’s snowing again in Sheridan. We’ve entered that crazy time of year when the sun shines for a few hours and the pavement heats up enough to drain our driveways. And then the wind shifts and the skies open again. It’s not the snow that gets old – it’s the constant need to temper our expectations. We won’t be clear of winter weather until April, maybe even May. We know this, but we grumble. Maybe we forget how much fun we can have in the snow.
A million years ago I went to a college costume party dressed as snow. We made our outfits from recyclables and Salvation Army castoffs: I glued tinfoil snowflakes to a dress made from old sheets, weaved tinsel in my hair, and teetered around on white platform sandals. But the best part of the costume was explaining it to the other party goers: nothing is more popular in a college ski town than snow. I’d tell people about my get-up and they’d holler and laugh and bow down. “Pray for snow” they yelled, “bring it on!”
Fast forward a few years and I’m still spending my days with college kids. The view is pretty different from the other side of the podium. I’m sure my students are more interested in planning their weekends and their costume parties than they are in composition class. As an instructor, I may take myself too seriously on occasion. I get pretty excited about obscure short stories. So I was a little skeptical when I climbed on board a college bus at 5:30 a.m. last Saturday.
Our new Outdoor Adventure Club organized a trip to a nearby ski area. They filled the bus with eager skiers – I was one of two ‘grown-ups’ along for the ride. I helped my colleague count heads and load equipment before sunrise. The three hour trek to Montana was quiet – somehow all the students slept through the grown-ups’ chatter.
I’m not sure what I expected out of this trip, but it was a surprising Saturday. I agreed to go because I love to ski and right now my ski days are mostly slow and parental. I jumped at this opportunity to ski like a college kid again. But the chance to spend the day with my students and play in the snow was unexpectedly refreshing. Students with whom I’ve struggled in the classroom were comfortable and confident on the ski hill. We traded war stories and planned runs together on the lift. In more than one case, they became the experts, teaching me about faster runs and ski racing drills. It’s impossible to take yourself too seriously when there is the potential to be head down in the snow. I had fun, and I gained valuable insight about the student-teacher dynamic. One of the privileges of teaching at a community college is that our students are adults. Faculty can cultivate adult relationships and make connections. Sometimes that happens in the classroom or in the Writing Center, but it might be easier outside. And at least in this case, a whole lot more fun in the snow. Bring it on!