One of my favorite MICDS traditions is the closing of each Upper School assembly with a moment of reflection. When I had an opportunity to speak at one just before Thanksgiving—especially in view of the unusual week-long holiday from the responsibilities of school that our students and teachers were about to enjoy—I wanted to conclude our time together in a spirit of happy anticipation. “For your moment of reflection,” I asked, “please consider these words of the nineteenth-century French poet Charles Baudelaire: ‘Genius is nothing but childhood recaptured at will.’ How will you recapture your own childhood in the week ahead?” It turns out that Baudelaire is just as wise in early February as he is in late November. What a ripe opportunity for genius this snowy week has afforded us!
The first of the inevitable petitions, from a boy in fifth grade, landed in my inbox with no nonsense on Monday at 5:09 p.m. “Will we have a snow day on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday?” (Even by excited student standards, 39 hours is impressively ahead of schedule. Conditions were fair and temperatures were still in the 50s when he sent me that inquiry. Snow? What snow?) The second one arrived with better if not impeccable manners the following day. “Good morning, Mr. Rainey! How are you on this fine Tuesday?” But would I dare accuse its author, a ninth-grade student at “this magnificent school” who simply feared becoming a “screenager” and “completely missing out on the beautiful snow” if we held classes virtually on Wednesday–and indeed who wrote part of her email in the Python programming language to make a pun about “considering my input”—would I dare accuse her of laying it on a little thick? Certainly not! No MICDS student would ever be so transparently manipulative.
I believe that social scientists refer to the phenomenon of cumulative advantage (“the rich get richer”) as “the Matthew effect,” and I confess that the term occurred to me when, before Wednesday’s invisible snow-day sun had even begun to set, appeals for an extension through Thursday began to roll in. “I am becoming sad at the thought of a Zoom day tomorrow,” wrote one Upper School student, sadly. “It rarely if ever snows more than a few inches in St. Louis. Could we please PLEASE PLEASE have another snow day tomorrow?” It may have been her third “PLEASE” that decided me, but I expect it was more likely the winter wonderland conditions that were forecast for Thursday, and the improved opportunity for the recapturing of childhood—for genius—that they promised.
Interestingly, the suggestion box was empty ahead of today, and today’s decision was probably the most challenging of the three. From an “inclement conditions” standpoint it was a slam dunk—I have written before about difficult campus-closure calls, and this was not one of them—but our ability at MICDS to hold classes remotely has broadened our range of options on days when we cannot physically be at school. Ultimately, because we have not defined and communicated our policy at MICDS for the implementation of virtual learning on inclement-weather days, because these are the first such days of the 2021-2022 school year, and because winter wonderland conditions persist, I elected to cancel classes again today. In the event of another snowstorm this year, I will be more inclined to shift to a virtual learning model than to lose additional instructional days, but that decision is not for now. The decision for now is how best to recapture our childhood, how best to find our genius.
Always reason, always compassion, always courage. My best wishes to you and your families for a wonderful weekend ahead.
Head of School