Bad Weather Impacts on Learning


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How often has the rain poured or the wind blown, resulting in a change of behaviour entering onto school corridors and into classrooms?

Analogy:

For those teachers who have ever stood in a school playground during a wet/windy break or lunch duty, the simple analogy of this post will cause several heads to start nodding in agreement. 

What I hope to share in this post, are a range of strategies that teachers can deploy when the weather is against us; how the weather potentially increases the opportunities for students to fall out of synchronisation with school expectations. 

There will probably be, very few blogs written about this, so I hope that I can offer some insight into the implications the weather can have on student behaviour and the cognition behind strategies used, to reduce and make what extreme situations occur, more manageable for school leaders to control.

shutterstock_183053510 Pretty young woman standing and wondering between the sun and rain drawings

Image: Shutterstock

Climate Change:

Poor behaviour happens in every single school. I’d like to pose a radical idea, that climate does play a factor in the classroom. No matter what the weather, every day I stand ‘on duty’ in the school playground at break and lunchtime. For the first time this academic year, this week I woke up to hear the media reporting; violent storms will hammer Britain and that ‘the remnants of ex-hurricane Kate will sweep across the north of the country!’

You could feel a real winter-chill in the air and it doesn’t take many teachers much time to realise, that unpredictable weather determines the mood in school corridors and classrooms.

Since returning after half-term, I have started to wear my winter coat on my journey to and from school. The change in attire is a sense of what is to come. Soon, I will need to be wearing this coat throughout the school day. The heater will be cranked up to full-blast in offices and classrooms. Site staff will be maintaining the boiler room religiously; ice-cold hands, fingertips and toes will mark the moment, sharp twangs and pains start to reach the tips of my ears. A runny nose will be obligatory, inspiring any desire to put on a thermal vest which I often regret not putting on underneath my shirt! The scraping of ice on the car windscreen marks an additional delay in our schedule, with dark mornings and night making one ponder; ‘Will I ever see daylight again?’ 

You see, weather influences our mood; it also determines how we may work. This can also be said for students; their behaviour and their attitudes to learning. Whenever students experience a change in the weather, emotions run higher than normal and teachers reading this, who have taught lessons after a wet/windy break or lunchtime will know the ramifications all too well!

shutterstock_259144679 Woman in Raincoat in rainy day

Image: Shutterstock

Weather Types, Student and Teacher Outcomes:

Here are several weather-scenarios we will understand and their impact on learning in the classroom;

  • Too cold = students wear jackets throughout the school; the uniform policy is challenged = teachers teach in their coats and start quoting union guidelines.
  • Too hot = student ties and shirt buttons become loose; shirt-tails hang free = teacher flip-flops appear, with trendy water-bottles in toe; union guidelines are quoted once again and staff pop out to the corner shop to buy a desktop fan!
  • Thunder and lightning = echoing screams across the school = teachers shout for calm and turn the YouTube volume up!
  • Blustery wind = students go wild = teachers say ‘there’s something in the air’ [and offer a knowing glower of what’s to come!]
  • Hailstones = students go wild and dart across open spaces for cover = teachers think about El Nino and global warming.
  • Torrential rain = students go wild; dart across the playground hoping a dashing of water will ensure they miss class = teachers tread carefully across puddles and vinyl floors, hoping not to drop their cups of tea or go flying on their a*se(!) in front of students.
  • Cold, blue sky = calm is restored; students learn = teachers are optimistic winter is over and start day-dreaming the blue skies are now the norm.
  • Warm spring day = students are calm; winter jackets disappear and uniform looks as it should once again = teachers get their mojo back; start enjoying daylight and offering more time after school hours.
  • Humid, sticky day = students walk around like they are crossing the Sahara(!); gasping for a sup of water from the (last working) drinking fountain! = teachers love the heat, but regret having to ‘be at work.’ Classrooms suffer and ventilation restricts progress.
  • Fog = students express no views about this weather pattern; the mood is low = teachers feel as though they are back in Victorian times; only the interactive whiteboard offers a sense of past and future.
  • Snow = chaos ensues before, during and after school = site teams scramble to clear the site; whilst SLT decide to keep school open/closed; teaching staff pray that school is closed as ‘travel is impossible’.

shutterstock_251409661 Close up of car tire on the snowy road with copy space

Image: Shutterstock

Unusual Weather:

As I stood in the playground during a duty this week, I experienced a cold wind. Five minutes later, this was coupled with torrential downpour, evolving into hailstones. Then, a ‘whirlwind’ gust picked up the last of the autumn leaves from the playground floor, swirling them around in a spiral across the ground. As those who work in a school know too well, anybody walking through this would soon be drenched in an instant; unfit for learning in any classroom. The opportunity for students was too good to resist and the following weather-menu is on offer;

  1. to be caught in the middle of a downpour, en-route to another lesson.
  2. to find the change in weather, an enjoyable alternative and the temptation for a refreshing soak, too-good an experience to refuse! Students come out from under the cover and experience the weather in all its entirety!
  3. or to keep hidden under what shelter school playgrounds have to offer.

Here are a range of strategies we deploy in our school. I am sure you will have your own:

  • Canopy covering open spaces.
  • Enrichment opportunities throughout break and lunchtime led by a mixture of teaching, support and volunteer staff. E.g. debate society, sports clubs, library reading etc.
  • Detentions throughout the day
  • Assemblies; I am pleased to say that we have registration during the middle of the day, during a double lunch period. E.g. the upper school will be at lunch, whilst the lower school will be in registration. This reduces the number of students out and about at any one time; particularly for a long period of time.
  • As a new-build school, we look forward to having our sports facilities open to allow students to have the space to express themselves physically. 
  • We also have magna locks fitted to many doors around the school. This helps control flow and access of movement. The doors can be automated or released at any time. E.g. emergencies or when the weather becomes very challenging.

What ideas and facilities do you have in place in your school to combat extreme weather?

TT.

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9 thoughts on “Bad Weather Impacts on Learning

  1. We are a primary and split site over a main road & dinners on one side only. We are very flexible in terms of how we cope, picnics under trees in hot weather, staff will trolley food across if it’s icy, cancel whole school assemblies, playtime DVDs in hall, always open doors early when raining/ cold, we supply coats , hats scarves, gloves for those who don’t have them (50% FSM here.) We also keep an eye on the phases of the moon 🙂

  2. A great article! Although this is not a solution A couple of experiences to share….Returning to PE teaching in the UK to moaning students when the sun comes out for a British summers days after two years of working in hot and sticky Thailand frustrated me no end! “It’s too hot for PE” “you can’t make us do this” refusal sunbathing I’m now in KL and although hot and sticky the monsoon season is now and the thunder and lightning is fantastic at around 3pm! Never have the kids not been in their school shoes the next day because they got soaked the day before! We’ve all heard that excuse before in the UK?!

  3. I have to say I think this post is a bit ridiculous sorry! The only students who use weather as an excuse for not being able to learn are those repeat offenders who might suggest they didn’t ‘get’ their hmwk as an excuse for not handing it in, or those that need the loo several times in one lesson! Sorry to sound like an old granny but we are mummying these kids way to much! They’ve got big thick sweatshirts on inside a classroom (and out), and with a coat at break time (ooh, good thinking) this should suffice NOT to even need heating on in schools yet-it’s mild so far! If anything, heating in our school makes the kids zonk out! (no comments about my lessons please! ) rant over

  4. Today was rather windy in the South West! The kids ran outside at playtime and went absolutely crazy, screaming and running around with their arms in the air. I brought them in for circle time after play which worked weirdly well! We do have spare coats for winter and spare hats for summer. There are lots of children who ‘forget’ them. We only have 60 children in the school so we know each of them well

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