Beating the heat

Usha Raman

As the mercury rises and we eagerly anticipate the monsoons, even before summer has officially begun, energies in the classroom start to wane. We find ourselves reaching more often for the water bottle and handkerchief, trying valiantly to keep sweat and thirst somewhat under control. The children, on the other hand, are a little more resilient, particularly those in primary school, refusing to allow the sun to diminish their enthusiasm for play or running around in any space available. Still, the heat gets to them in less visible ways. Fights may break out more easily on the playground. Some children might slump a little in their seats. Others may find it harder to concentrate.

It’s always hard holding the attention of 30 something (or more!) restless bodies, and the pre-summer weeks are particularly difficult. But how much do we really adjust our teaching methods or even the curricular balance to account for changes in the external environment? Does our system allow us to cut ourselves and the children a little slack in the heat of March and April, and perhaps pick up the pace in cooler months? Are there ways in which we might tweak our lesson plans so that we are sensitive to such variations?

The majority of classrooms in our country are overcrowded and stuffy. Yes, there are some schools that have the privilege of space and greenery, with airy windows and leafy corridors, but these tend to be the exception. We may not be able to do much about the kind of space we are given to teach within, but maybe we can think a little about how we might change our expectations, and therefore our methods, to allow a little light breeze into the classroom. We could break up classroom activities into shorter chunks, deal with easier or less dense parts of lessons, for instance. We can ensure that the children are adequately hydrated, by insisting that they take regular sips of water, and stay cool in any way possible. We can pay attention to children who seem to be wilting – and not just put it down to lack of attention or interest.

But we also need to take care of ourselves. Is the heat making us more irritable and short with our students? Do we find that getting through the homework is taking us twice as long? What adjustments can we make to take care of such issues? If possible, we can assign less homework during these final days of the term, or we can assign homework that can be collectively reviewed, particularly in higher classes. There can be less writing and more discussion and presentation.

Do you have ideas or techniques you have tried to stay cool through these hot days? Do write and let us know!

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