How to stay warm in a freezing classroom

With temperatures dropping, and classroom windows staying open, wardrobe choices are even more important for teachers

Nancy Gedge

Coronavirus: How can teachers keep warm if we keep the windows of school classrooms open?

I don’t know about you, but I’m worn out. It’s only three weeks in and I’ve got that late-December feeling, minus the dark mornings. 

Being in school while everything is overlaid with a sheen of Covid-related anxiety is exhausting, not just emotionally but physically, too. And this will probably only get worse, as the temperature drops but all the classroom windows stay open.

Teacher dress has long been a hot topic in the staffroom (when we were allowed in them). But now there’s the coronavirus. When the windows are open, when teachers unused to the rigours of outdoor education hurtle around, in and out of buildings all day long, clocking up the miles in their newly sensible shoes, what other topic provides the same level of necessary distraction – and is useful, too?

Now, I’m not saying that we need to go down the same road as our NHS colleagues who are working in schools, wearing scrubs and washing everything at 60 degrees. But washing everything more regularly and keeping homewear and schoolwear separate has got to be good. As are pockets (for tissues). 

And ignore all advice you’ve ever been given to take off extra layers indoors or you won’t appreciate it when you go outside later. Because, I don’t know about you, but I’m not planning on closing those windows any time soon if I can help it.

So, speaking as a person who spent a long time teaching in cold corridors, I thought I would share with you my thoughts to date.

Coronavirus: Layer up when you're keeping windows open

I spent some time at the end of the summer holiday planning for this, so I hope you will excuse a certain smugness on my part. This coming season has seen me invest in:

  • new trainers for hurtling (in the sale: smug).
  • tank top (an excellent layering concept for days when it’s warmer outside than in).
  • looooong coatigan (yes, all right: I look like Grandma. Still, when it gets really cold, I will be the one who is warm – and smug)

Revisit the contents of your wardrobe

  • Jackets
    I have a surprisingly large number (well, three). It’s just a pity they haven’t got any pockets, really.
  • Gilets
    I think this year is going to be the Year of the Gilet. Do you think this means I am justified in buying another (especially as they do have pockets)?
  • Academic gowns
    It struck me this afternoon, when I was indulging in a little fantasy-wardrobe planning, that there have to be teachers out there in possession of academic gowns. I mean, an extra layer and dramatic swish. You can’t get better than that, surely?

Bringing the outside in

Playgrounds are the coldest and most exposed places in the country. So standing about in them for hours has armed me with a range of furry boots, fluffy socks and heavy-duty coats and hats, which I fully intend to repurpose for indoors.

I don’t have a poncho, or one of those scarves that looks like a blanket, but they could also be good.

Thinking beyond the wardrobe

I have a friend who is one of those people who is constantly cold, no matter what the temperature. She is the queen of the hot-water bottle. In her name, I also invoke the handwarmer, the wheat bag (even though they are not clothing) and the fingerless glove. Fleecy blankets? They could be the latest fashion-forward accessory.

Thinking about what you’re going to wear serves another purpose, too. Every so often, when it all gets a bit intense, I feel the need to think about something else – something light – to pierce the tension. It’s a trick I learned at family funerals, where, rather than weeping into the tea, we cried with laughter at the funny things they used to say and do. Gallows humour, I guess.

So: think about your classroom clothes. Keep warm. Stay safe.

Nancy Gedge is Tes SEND columnist, coordinator of the Ormerod Resource Base at the Marlborough School, Woodstock, and author of Inclusion for Primary School Teachers

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