Teachers handle 'craziness' as schools return

Southside Elementary third grade teacher Lacie Pumphrey looks through snow flakes and the accompanying stories her students did before this week's ice. The stories make it easier to transition students back into their routines following snow days like the ones the school has had this week.
Staff Writer

After an unexpected extra two days off due to weather, hundreds of educators across the Golden Triangle and North Mississippi returned to school Thursday. And while the extra time off was nice, having to get students, regardless of their age, refocused isn't without it's challenges.

"It was a little crazy at first," admitted Lacie Pumphrey, a third-grade teacher at Southside Elementary in West Point.

"They weren't too rambunctious. It's just a matter of getting them refocused, back into the groove of learning and doing that work. That's the challenge," described Bruce Mize, a modern world history teacher at West Point High.

But others had a little smoother sledding.

"No, it's been great. Everyone has been serious. Everyone got some extra rest we needed. They were more worried about whether they were going to lose days at spring break to make it up. I just came in with a smile and started rocking and rolling," explained Cheryl Doss, who is in her ninth year teaching math and algebra at Fifth Street Junior High in West Point.

The younger the students, the bigger the challenge getting them back on track. A routine is the key.

"Most of them know the routine. Once the routine is set, they are pretty practical about it," explained Doss, who said she mixed a little humor in with business Thursday to help the eighth-graders get over the hump.

"You just have to let them talk it out, tell about what they did. If you don't, they are just going to be whispering and talking to each other anyway. They just need time to get it out of their system. So we talked about it and wrote about. They enjoyed hearing about what everyone did," Pumphrey said of her approach to the "craziness."

"But they miss the routine a little, too. The routine, being with their friends, all that is important to them," she continued. "They were excited about the things we were going to do, getting back to our tests on Fridays, the stuff we do each week. With just two days, you just sort of ease into and get ready to rock on."

Interestingly, on the Friday the students returned from Christmas break, Pumphrey did a polar bear experiment where they put their hands in a bucket of ice water and then coated their hands with Crisco and dipped into the ice water again.

Bare-handed, the students all realized how cold it could be. But the Crisco insulated their hands, warding off much of the cold.

That's the same way layers of fat insulate polar bears in cold weather.

"We talked about that today. None of them came in coated in Crisco, but they understood better about the cold and animals," Pumphrey said.

"That really helped transition back into work," she added, saying students will incorporate art, math, technology and other skills into making large snowflakes in class today.

If the region had gotten more snow, it could have been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, more snow would have meant students could have made snowmen, had snowball fights and gone sledding, all of which would have given them more things to write about and more math to have fun with.

On the other hand, it might have made younger students even more wound up once school restarted.

"This snow was so dry you couldn't even make real snowballs with it," Pumphrey lamented, a mixture of joy and disappointment in her voice.

High school students bring a different challenge in West Point because the school is on block schedules, meaning they started with new teachers for longer class periods second semester as opposed to more classes during the day for shorter periods.

So after seven days back in class, they were out three.

Like in middle and elementary school, the teacher's approach is important.

"It's almost like coming back from Christmas break again, you are basically having to start all over. It did put us in a little bind, but we will do what we always do and get it done," Mize said.

Mize and some other teachers use what is called "Remind" technology to stay in touch with students during breaks, providing gentle reminders about school and topics they are studying.

To a person, teachers hope this bout of winter is the last. 

"Hopefully we've got it out of the way . We are ready to get back in that routine in get in seven or eight good weeks before spring break," Pumphrey said.