The Storm that Never Came

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I work in an old building without air conditioning. My windows are propped open almost all year round since we overheat that one wall of rooms all winter while some other locations freeze. Come spring, the greenhouse effect is fierce.

On the positive side, I get fresh air all year long, a real advantage considering the number of sick kids with whom I am always sharing my air space.

But I am busy plotting a way to work outside right now because I am pretty sure we won’t be able to stay inside. That room has gone over 90 degrees occasionally and, in warmer months, frequently goes above eighty degrees. So I take them outside with a worksheet. This is hardly optimal teaching — but it’s the best we can do under the circumstances, especially when the storm does not come. I had been counting on that storm. I had intended and planned to be inside so I’m not really set to do anything creative outside. Outside work is much harder to manage, too, since they are so easily distracted. But the weather has betrayed me.

School districts with money have some big advantages. One is control of their infrastructure with the ability to remodel or even build new schools. My daughters needed sweaters in middle school and high school because of the air-conditioning. This is a real asset for teaching and learning.

Because I work in a district that has a real shortage of money, we can’t get that control of our infrastructure. It’s a bit aggravating to think about (so I usually don’t) but the fact is that those sacred test scores that everyone worries about so incessantly — those scores are harmed by the days when my classroom soars into the eighties and above. Even if I can get the kids to work, they whine all day despite my cheeriest efforts and are just generally miserable.  I have a colleague in another part of the building whose classroom sometimes falls into the low fifties in the winters. She wears gloves in the classroom on those days. I would find a warmer spot in the building and move my class, but she just makes-do. In the end, a teacher has to weigh the cost in time and distractions from relocating against the effect of the temperature on student behavior and focus. These extreme temperatures are hardly conducive to learning in either case.