Thursday, July 5, 2012

Too Hot!

I started my  career in a school that had no air conditioning!

That's no joke!  I have very vivid memories of kids in my class looking like they were melting on very warm September and May days.  They may have been hallucinations caused by the heat but it sure made me appreciate a cheap, poorly made window air conditioning unit that I found on the streets of Milwaukee.

It was a small, brown contraption that looked like it weighed about 100 lbs.  What could be the harm in trying it out?  Worst case scenario, it wouldn't work and I would throw it in the school's dumpster.  Or so I thought.

Upon picking it up I realized that it did not weigh 100 lbs.  It felt like it weighed 1000 lbs!  Add sweltering heat on top of that and I was looking at a real dilemma here.

In order to get it to my classroom I had to throw it in the back of my 1991 Ford Festiva.  That may have been the smallest car ever made at that point.  The minute I set that climate control device in the trunk, the whole car sunk to the point where the wheel wells were rubbing on the tires.  I thought I heard my poor car moan at one point.

After sweating off 5 lbs. lugging that thing around I was finally ready to plug it in and give it a try.  Success!!  It worked.  Sure, it was loud......really loud.  I had to yell to be heard over it.  But if that was the cost of comfort, we would be a class where yelling was the norm.  The kids adapted quickly.  Pretty soon the kids would only speak one another if they were yelling in each other's ears.  A rudementary sign langauage was developed that consisted mostly of kids giving the "thumbs up" sign when they agreed with something and throwing their hands up when they didn't understand.

After a short period of time our room became the place that every student, faculty member, and parent wanted to be.  Everyone would stop by and say hi or just sit in and "listen" to what was going on.  This made me accutely aware of what I was doing in my class, what we were covering, and how my students were doing.  It was awesome.

The collegial collaboration of our building improved, conversations were occuring surrounding student achievement, and we were getting better at the business of educating kids.

All because of an air conditioner I found on the streets of Milwaukee.

As the year went on, the temps cooled off and the AC unit was no longer necessary.

With the air conditioner leaving so did the crowds of people that would stop by our room and discuss learning.

The lesson I learned from all of this is "be the air conditioner."  Find a way to make your class, your school, or wherever you are the place where student achievement is center stage.  Be the place where collegial conversations are the norm.  Find out whatever your "air conditioner" is and get the word out.

You may do more than just cool off your students.

Mr. K

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