Impossible

This week I learned that the impossible can happen.

Last fall, in an effort to get my students to study harder for English tests, I announced that if the entire class pulled A’s and B’s on an English test, I would take them skiing. (I was quite sure of the impossibility.) Apparently, eighth graders need this sort of positive motivation because despite a test full of diagramming (not to mention the fact that the test was ON A MONDAY) my students pulled it off. All A’s and B’s.

I spent most of November and December announcing over and over again that “I DON’T KNOW” exactly when we are going skiing. January rolled around, and I managed to find some parent chaperones and a date that worked with everyone’s schedule. Snow wasn’t in the forecast for the week of our ski trip, but the temperatures were low enough for the little ski resort to be making its own snow. (Who skis on man-made snow, you ask? Midwesterners, who are already resigned to skiing on man-made hills.) However, as Thursday loomed closer, the weather looked very unsatisfactory, with rain and sleet in the forecast. I canceled for a later date.

The day before our would-be trip, the eighth grade boys crowded around my desk, begging me to re-schedule the trip for the next day anyway. “It’s only going to rain a little bit! Then it’s going to snow a couple of inches. It will be fine!”

A couple of inches? Uh, that’s not exactly what I read in the weather forecast.

We voted as a class, and the seasoned boarders enthusiastically voted to go anyway, despite the conditions. The novices seemed to have no idea what rain could do to snow, so they voted, “I don’t know.” I was realizing that kids don’t care about perfect ski conditions.

But I had to make a good choice here. Some students would be skiing and boarding for the first time, and this wasn’t an exactly cheap trip that they were paying for. I had to make sure they were skiing on good snow. I checked the weather again. Sixty percent chance of rain. I decided to call the ski resort and see if they could give me some advice about conditions and how they relate to beginner skiers and boarders.

Ski resort lady: “We know people who LOVE skiing in the rain.”

Of course you do. (Who SAYS that?)

Checking the weather one more time, I looked at the 60% chance of rain and decided to risk it. I rescheduled the trip for the next day. I sent home a detailed letter explaining everything they needed to bring.

But after school, I checked the weather report again, and rain looked imminent. Freezing rain was expected through the night. The chance of rain for our field trip day had increased to 90%, with four hours of rain forecasted for the morning, followed by sleet, with only a low chance of snow in the evening.

I felt like canceling again. (I was being very indecisive.) I needed to get it together. I was torn between (1) waiting to have amazing snow and making it a great time for the newbies, and (2) pleasing the impatient kids (and honestly myself who thought it would be really nice for my schedule to go ahead and “get the field trip out of the way.”) So I prayed.

God, I know this means nothing to you. Weather for skiing field trips probably isn’t on your big list of world-problems to fix right now. But it would be really handy if you could hold off the rain. Please change the weather for our field trip.

I decided that if school was delayed in the morning, I would use that as a sign that I should re-cancel the trip. Because of freezing rain, school was delayed two hours. The rain forecast had even caused the ski resort to close for the morning. I decided to check the weather again one more time. Several minutes before, the forecast had 90% chance of rain for four hours in the morning. I checked again.

Zero percent chance of rain.

Oh, I thought to myself, I must have clicked on the wrong city. Here, let’s put in Jones, Michigan, again. It popped up again: ZERO PERCENT CHANCE OF RAIN.

Now. That can’t be. Hmmm. I stared at my screen.

ZERO. Zero chance of rain.

It was one of those moments that’s really incredible, as in, the true definition of the word “incredible”: not believable. I actually couldn’t believe that it had happened. My friends didn’t even really get how big of deal it was. I told them the weather forecast had changed overnight. “Oh, really? That’s nice.”

But it was a very big deal to me.

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A majority of my class went on the after-school trip and had a marvelous time. No, the snow wasn’t perfect, but we all got to learn something new. The slopes were pretty quiet, and for a while we had the bunny hill to ourselves. The boarders had a great time in the terrain park. By the end of the evening, poetic little snowflakes were lightly dusting the machine-groomed hills.

Yes, we here in Nappanee are grateful for the day it didn’t rain.

Apparently, the impossible can happen.

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