I don’t know about you, but my Twitter and Facebook feeds are overflowing with updates on how many schools, universities, and day care centers are closed today as the latest round of winter weather works its way up the East Coast. But some are open, with professors in the classroom trying to make headway on syllabi that are rapidly becoming useless as guides.
I was one of those professors trying to run class this morning (until our university closed at 12:30). Teaching in such situations is something I find incredibly challenging. The students are all distracted, and on a campus with lots of commuters, that means the room is already half-empty. This morning everyone came in feeling wet and cold, watching out the window, and during my first section we lost a good ten minutes as the campus alert system cascaded across everyone’s computer and phone with a text, an email, and a phone call announcing the campus closing.
When confronted with such a situation, I usually try to acknowledge the obvious (it’s snowing outside!) but ask the students to focus, which is to say that I start with something like, “yes, it’s snowing, but we’re all here anyway, so let’s work.” It helped at least today that we were covering relatively “fun” material, the Salem witch trials. But it’s always a challenge, especially when as a faculty member I wasn’t particularly thrilled to wake up and discover my campus among the few open.
So as you’re home watching snow, ice, sleet, graupel, rain, or something else fall from the sky—hopefully with a cup of something warm in your hands and perhaps the Olympics on TV—I open it up for your thoughts: how do you deal with a weather-distracted classroom?
 In the fall semester I drew all the window shades in my classroom so students wouldn’t be distracted by snowfall during a final exam.