I have noticed recently that, no matter what the outside temperature is, schools seem to run their own climates.
Classrooms should ideally provide relief from the weather and maintain an ambient temperature so that students can concentrate on their learning. Cooler weather, however, inevitably means teaching in unheated, cold and draughty classrooms.
Teaching in extreme heat is even worse. Scorching weather does little to promote school to reluctant students and there are times when, standing at the whiteboard with a bead of sweat on your forehead, you look out at the class and see glazed, heat-affected expressions. No one has slept the night before and it has taken its toll.
It feels as if you are delivering a constant monologue as questions posed linger in the air, unanswered, and the only noise to be heard is the buzzing of an unidentifiable flying insect. The only animated discussion you have been able to poke out of the class was when you tried to get the air-conditioner to start and nothing happened.
“Why is it always our class that gets the rooms without air con?”
“Seriously, this has been happening since year 7.”
“Miss, isn’t it true that we get to go home when it reaches 38 degrees?”
“Nah, 35 degrees.”
“I thought it had to get to 40.”
“Yeah, at my primary school we used to get to go home when it was above 28.”
“No, we didn’t.”
“Yes we did. Like, heaps of times. You must have been away.”
I love the time-honoured urban legend that in extreme heat school closes and we all get to go home. Imagine if that actually happened. I think even I would be able to summon a leap and a skip as I fled the some rooms air-conditioned, others not, building for the freedom of my car and a blissfully liberated afternoon.
I have come to the conclusion that the coolest area in the school is always the administration zone. The conditions there are inevitably arctic, particularly when you visit having come from your lesson held in a portable classroom with a climate to rival that of a tropical island without the atmosphere.
The office staff appear to be comfortable, non-sweaty and can even cope with drinking a hot beverage. A couple of them are even wearing cardigans and wondering aloud whether they might need to raise the temperature as they have started developing goose bumps.
As you stand chatting to them after collecting your coloured paper supply for year 7 posters your body temperature drops and you wonder why it is that the air-conditioning in this area is always so reliable and effective and the remote control is never missing. The water from the water cooler is also much cooler than the water cooler in the general staff room and is highly coveted amongst the teaching staff.
At our school, the teachers are hot, the office staff are cool. You can read into that anything you like.
Christina Adams is a member of the Australian Education Union (Victoria) and a stand-up comedian