Switch Off To Save: Heating

Many times we can forget that if we all make small changes these lead to big changes. In terms of helping planet Earth if each classroom in the world made small changes to their everyday classroom routine the planet could be helped greatly.

Here is the first simple change of behaviour you can make in your classroom to start helping save Earth - everyday, not just on Earth Day.

Switch Off The Heater!

Okay, so that sounds simple enough...just don't turn it on...but nothing is ever that simple because this change does require some parental support. Usually I find though that parents are actually really supportive of this one but for some reason this current generation of primary school students are not.

Where I live we are heading into colder weather. It's only autumn but some days it feels like the middle of winter. At the moment we are getting weather that is barely breaking the 20 degree Celsius mark. However, what I start to see in the classroom at this time of year are shorts and t-shirts! Yes, as the weather cools some of this generation seem to think it is actually getting warmer.

On face value there doesn't seem anything too wrong with the decision to wear non-seasonal clothing. After all, the child has to wear it, its school uniform - so what's the big deal? Right? Wrong!

These often stubborn-inclined students who come to school dressed in short and t-shirts are always the first in the class (usually as they walk through the door) to whinge...."Can you put the heater on? I'm cold." Well, duh!

This is actually a pet-peeve of mine (next to completely inappropriate footwear - but that's another blog post!) as these students - usually between a quarter and half the class expect that the classroom temperature is their own personal heater. The rest of the class who have sensibly dressed for the weather don't want, or need, the heater on. And here's the problem teachers face....

  1. If you put the heater on the students dressed appropriately will become hot and take off their jumpers to be comfortable. The other students who didn't dress wisely will be comfortable as they are. The next day you have more inappropriately dressed students because they know that heater is going to be switched on.
  2. If you don't put the heater on you are likely to have a parent complain about how mean you are - either to your face or your principal and depending on the level of administrative support in your school will depend how willing to are to risk it.
It's one of those dreadful lose-lose situations. I am a stubborn supported of option 2. My solution to this situation is as follows...

  1. I don't put the heater on to appease the whims and whinges of students who make poor dress choices in the morning. It is a life skill that they learn to dress for the weather.
  2. I don't allow a student to "freeze". As soon as they are in the classroom (or if I spot them before school) they get sent over to the lost property box to retrieve a jumper for the day - think that's gross? Then bring your own jumper tomorrow (amazing how quickly this resolves the issue with some students).
  3. Put a note in the diary advising the parent the child felt uncomfortable in their choice of outfit - particularly if you have a repeat offender. Often these kids will have a jumper (and I've even known pants) to be in their school bag as they have changed either on their way to, or at, school without their parent even knowing. If you don't feel comfortable writing it down then try a quick phone call to the parent.
  4. If it's winter and you have a group (more often than not boys) who are determined to play football on the oval, in the mud, every recess or lunch then I strongly suggest a note home in your classroom newsletter about recommending spare clothes in the bag that they can change into. I have had lots of parents of students in grades 1-3 who did this (this was actually a parent suggestion in my first year of teaching)!

So how does this help planet Earth? 
By cutting back on the heating and using it only the days when it is necessary. Yes, those freezing days when the wind is blowing, rain and hail are pounding the roof and windows and no amount of layers will make you feel warm is an okay day to put the heater on.

For each day you resist the modern temptation to switch on remind yourself that you are saving energy (most times this is electrical energy but you're also creating less pollution as an indirect benefit). Also, you are saving the school money as well which can be put to better use with better resources and equipment.

Classroom Challenge
Mark up how many days you did and didn't use the heater over the autumn/winter months (be sensible though as you don't want frozen students in the classroom). You might set a temperature as a class that only when the room drops to that assigned temperature that you can put the heater on. This way you are teaching your students valuable life skills of going without/budgeting/being frugal, reading a thermometer, constructing a tally, recording and collecting data (not to mention interpretation and representation of data at the end of winter).

See, so many benefits! This way you get the students involved and begin to instill a life-long change in their behaviour as opposed to a one day change and then reverting back to old habits.

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