It's a pretty glamorous life, this head of school thing. I know what you're thinking. Guy wakes up in the morning, puts on his silk robe and slippers, grabs his freshly brewed double latte, pets his loyal hound, and wanders casually to window, searching the sky for signs of snow. He sits and reflects, quietly, on the magnitude of his realm, and contemplates aloud: "Will I open our fine institution of learning this morning, forcing the timid masses to keep a stiff upper lip in the interest of maintaining academic momentum? Or, will I grant the young people a reprieve from their toil, inviting collective glee and the opportunity to frolic while their parents scramble amusingly to secure child care?" He sips his latte, chuckles to himself, revels in the bliss of power, and picks up the phone...
Yeah, not so much.
Here's a blow by blow of how it actually works:
Tuesday morning, the chatter begins around school. "More snow coming. Looks like it might get messy. What do you think about Thursday?" My reply, some form of the following: "Ummm..."
Wednesday morning, the lobbying begins. The upper school head, famous for her love of snow days, begins dropping by with weather updates. Emails and text messages from her follow. My assistant blows into my office like Kramer entering Jerry's apartment, clutching a printed weather radar photo: "Did you know we're getting two feet of snow tonight??!!" I look at her, my eyebrows raised slightly, amused. Students ask, casually, "Do you think we'll have school tomorrow? I have a project due..." My reply, a feeble smile and some form of the following: "Ummmm..."
Wednesday night, 9:00 p.m., check the weather before going home from school. Snow beginning sometime between 7:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Anticipated totals between two and eighteen inches. Storm path uncertain. Source A reports a dusting. Source B reports Armageddon. Source C is non-committal. Drive home while receiving multiple pathetically hyperbolic text messages from the head of upper school.
Wednesday night, 9:30 p.m., eat dinner and watch the Olympics. Wonder if they ever have snow days in Sochi. Wonder, also, while watching pairs figure skating, "what's up with those costumes?"
Wednesday night, 10:20 p.m., go to bed and check forecast and school closings on phone. Worcester schools are closed. I wonder, "What is closer, Worcester or Sochi?" Set alarm for 5:15 a.m.
Thursday morning, 5:15 a.m., wake to alarm. Check school closings. Athol closed. "How unfortunate," I think, on so many levels. Amesbury closed. Bellesini Academy closed. A few other schools with names somehow worse than Glen Urquhart closed. "Not enough," I think. Re-set alarm for 6:00.
Thursday morning, 6:00 a.m., wake again to alarm. Look out the window. Nothing. Check phone for school closings. Hamilton-Wenham closed. "Hmmmm," I think. "What do these upper middle class yankees know that I don't? Have they been tipped off by the meteorological inner circle?" Email arrives from a parent. Manchester-Essex also closed. "Conspiracy among the strong tax base," I think. "Not to panic. Stay calm." Then, the flurry: Gloucester, Ipswich, Danvers, Peabody, Boxford, Landmark, Pingree... Expletives uttered as I reach for my home computer.
6:12 a.m., discover that home computer has been re-configured by 16-year-old and that my files, including login information for School Messenger, are no longer available. More expletives. Voice beside me asks, "What can I do?" I reply, "You can stop talking to me so I can figure this out." I think to myself, "Smooth." I atone briefly and carry on.
6:15 a.m., realize I need my laptop and will need to go to school in order to cancel school. Dress and run to car. Drive to GUS at imprudent speed while alternately breathing mindfully and inwardly, bitterly mocking the entire mindfulness paradigm. Wonder what time it is in Sochi and what figure skaters wear to breakfast.
6:28, log in to School Messenger and initiate process for recording automatic call to families. Realize that the upper school building is, in fact, an impenetrable bunker without cell reception. Grab laptop and cell phone and walk outside the upper school building in jeans, sweatshirt, realizing I have no poem, no amusing quip, nothing. I am dead inside. Beaten. Winter, that ruthless marauder, has won.
6::30 a.m., cell phone rings and I am prompted by automated call system to record the message, which I do, forlorn and shivering. I turn with my phone and open laptop to re-enter the school, realizing I have locked myself out. Briefly, I consider weeping. I then begin laughing uproariously like an ultra-creepy John Malkovich. I sit down on the sidewalk and email the faculty. Perhaps someone is coming. "It's ok," I think. "If no one arrives I'll just curl up here outside the doors and go to sleep. They'll find me in the morning."
6:35 a.m., Bruce Emerson emerges from Braemar, chuckling. He saves me from myself and lets me back into school. I begin looking for phone numbers for the local TV stations. They are cruelly hidden on their websites. Finally, I reach channel 7; I am transferred three times before I reach the right person. Apparently, there is a room somewhere at the station, some secret place where school closings are received and posted. "Do you have your codes?" the person asks. I reply, "Ummmm...." The head shaking on the other end of the phone is audible. Even the lowly intern charged with taking cancellations sees how pathetic I am.
7:05, a.m., log on to Facebook and begin reading snarky posts from parents regarding the snow day call. "Ahhh, the glamour of it all," I think to myself. I sit back in my office chair and look outside. It's quiet, and it has begun to snow.
Enjoy the day.
Dave Provost is head of school at the Glen Urquhart School in Beverly Farms, MA. He was formerly head of Nantucket New School and an accomplished musician.