It’s hard to learn when you’re cold. It’s also hard to teach. Unfortunately, many of our nation’s schools are older and that means they are likely full of drafty windows and outdated heating systems. And when the temperatures drop, your classroom is colder than anyone wants.
Fortunately, there’s something you can do about it. Take steps to keep your classroom and your students a bit warmer this winter.
How warm should your classroom be?
If a classroom is too warm, it can raise your body temperature. This can make you feel sick, dizzy, and disoriented. If the classroom is too cold, it can cause you to lose focus as your mind constantly interrupts you with thoughts about the discomfort. The effects on learning are real, too.
Temperatures that are too high or low contribute to lower test scores, decrease in memory, and lack of energy. The ideal temperature for learning is between 68-75 degrees, according to the Regional Educational Laboratory Program of the Institute of Education Sciences.
If your classroom temperature falls below 68 degrees, it’s time to take action. Here’s what you can do.
Dress in layers.
Both you and your students can suit up for the cold. Follow these guidelines for the best way to layer your clothing.
- The inner layer is meant to keep moisture away from your skin so that your body doesn’t cool down due to sweat. Choose wool, synthetic, or silk but not cotton as it won’t do the job.
- The middle layer should be a light insulating layer. Wool or synthetics work here.
- The outer layer is the insulating layer designed to trap heat. Wool and nylon/polyester work well.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothing, including socks. Any clothing that reduces normal blood circulation to your arms and legs will actually make you feel colder.
Wear hats, scarves, gloves, and socks.
Teaching in a coat is bulky and uncomfortable. However, adding some of your winter accessories can bring warmth without the bulk.
- Since 7-10% of heat is lost via our head, wearing a hat can help. Just make sure that your school doesn’t have a rule against hats, and that the ones chosen aren’t distracting from learning.
- Scarves immediately make you feel warmer. Winter scarves and fashion scarves both work; just make sure that they fully cover your exposed neck.
- Gloves can be worn while teaching and learning. Students can keep their fingers warm when reading or doing activities that don’t involve writing.
- Keep your feet warm. Wool socks are great choices for extra warmth. Most of the time, wearing double socks just makes your shoes feel tight. Take a tip from the Tour de France cyclists and fold a paper towel or napkin over the top of your foot, toes, and under your toes. Then put on your shoe. It will give you extra warmth.
Use hand warmers, foot warmers, and blankets
Get creative with ways you and your students can keep warm!
- Keep disposable hand and foot warmers on hand. They are air-activated and last for hours.
- You can also use reusable and rechargeable hand or foot warmers. There are some great options for kids, too.
- Buy cheap blankets at the dollar store or Walmart or have students bring their own to keep in your classroom in case they get cold. Get enough so each student can have his/her own. And keep them year after year (just don’t forget to wash them). These can also come in handy during storytimes!
Moving circulates your blood which makes you feel warmer. It has the added benefit of engaging students.
- Incorporate movement into your lesson plans and your routines. Have students respond to multiple-choice questions by standing on one leg, rubbing their hands together, or stretching toward the ceiling. Give a quiz where questions are posted around the room.
- Take a learning break and do jumping jacks, GoNoodle Movement videos, etc.
- Bundle up and take your class outside for a few minutes. Not only will running around help them warm-up, but when you come back in, the classroom will feel warmer.
- Remember to close your classroom door to keep in the heat.
Choose foods and beverages that help you stay warm.
Healthy fatty foods provide the energy that keeps you warm. Similarly, hot beverages add that much-needed comfort.
- Nuts and dark chocolate are great choices for healthy fatty foods that are easily portable to the classroom.
- Sipping on a thermos filled with soup also can help you concentrate in a cold classroom.
- Drink hot beverages, such as tea or coffee. Ginger tea is known for producing heat in our bodies. The caffeine in coffee increases your metabolism which can raise body temperature. Plus holding tea or coffee in your hands feels wonderfully warm.
- Drink water. When you’re dehydrated, your core temperature can drop. Staying hydrated helps you regulate your temperature.
Finally, remember that we all need a little motivation after winter break. Concentrate on the moment, think warm thoughts, and take in the enjoyment of teaching. Those happy feelings will help you and your students forget the cold… at least momentarily.
Coats for Kids – the Gift of Warmth
California Casualty supports Coats for Kids, a program that donates new winter coats to children in need. Coats for Kids was established by the Professional Fire Fighters of Utah to combat one of the most fundamental hardships of childhood poverty, the absence of a warm winter coat. We applaud all of you who make the extra effort to keep our most vulnerable children safe, warm, and healthy.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.