How cold can it be in this classroom?

by Mr. Sheehy

Yesterday I ran out to the garbage can quickly, partly to do a favor for my wife and get rid of the smelly diapers, and partly because I was curious how cold the cold would feel. It’s strange to see the temperature at 5 below and not have a good idea of how cold that is. I know it’s different, because there is a big difference between the feel of 30 degrees and the feel of 60, and the numerical difference between 30 degrees and 14 below is even bigger, but I don’t have a feel for it. 16 below, by the way, is what my car told me this morning, but the car was certainly grumpy and might have been exaggerating in an attempt to garner sympathy. Anyway, yesterday afternoon I was determined to feel the difference, and I ventured beyond the storm door with three little bags of garbage and nary a hat or coat.

Of course the reality is that 30 seconds is not long enough for my body heat to move through my sweater, and while the success of my venture made me confident enough to pack up and move to Alaska for the fun of it, I didn’t actually have the slightest clue how cold it was. For that I had to do something stupid, like attempt to adjust the single strand of Christmas lights we twisted around the railing.

(As a side note, we have found that the external outlets are not connected to any of the mysteriously purposeless light-switches in our house, which has dampened the idea of stringing Christmas lights outside, as it would require late night forays into the snow and cold to unplug things. Interesting, isn’t it, how one run to the garbage can makes me strong enough to move to Alaska, but I’m not willing to brave it on a nightly basis to unplug some lights?)

As a metaphor, I suppose the experience reminds me of how we advise prospective teachers to consider their potential careers: jump in for a couple seconds and see what it’s like. Then enter a major (and expensive) educational venture with the assumption that you’ll like it. The truth in many cases is that sitting in a classroom for an hour isn’t enough to know . . .

It seems to me that we in education could give folks something that can supply a more realistic feel for the reality of our profession than a couple hours of “sophomore experience.” You can get hints, I suppose, if the situation is extreme enough. Yesterday right after my garbage can-run, I grabbed a book and attempted to read, but my eyes glassed over and I discovered what it must be like to read from the inside of a fishbowl. Note, though, that it took five below zero to do that to me. I suppose a sophomore experience of 20 hours of classroom observation could make anyone’s eyes gloss over, but in an entirely different way, which means it would be easy to miss the point and move through a whole lot of training before recognizing how cold it can be in a classroom. To me, it doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult to reorder the typical university’s chain of events, possibly require some early tutoring experiences, or an apprentice experience, or something to give a better feel of what it’s like.

Thankfully, even with the system the way it is, when it comes to classroom coldness, some of us are like native Alaskans.

Thanks for reading.

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