Saturday, January 26, 2008

the week of living hypothermically

I took my kids to my classroom for a bit on Monday because I am an anal OCD victim needed to do a few things before Tuesday. They love going to my school, especially after hours - I think they feel like they're getting a backstage pass, hanging out in my office, eating my stash of snacks, popping in & out of the Top Secret Teachers' Lounge. The downside was the lack of heat, which I optimistically believed to be simply a condition of being at school when it's been closed for three days. Alas, no.

Quick back story: The alternative HS where I work is housed in an old building (est. circa 194longtimeago) and is rather the black sheep of our school district. My room in particular has two dinosaur heating units, one that has never worked since I've moved in (its vents are packed with ancient sticky candies and mangled bobby pins) and one that makes an impressive blowing sound but has never really inspired much warmth. Thus, when I turned it on Monday it blew valiantly during the hour we were there, but we never took off our coats.

Tuesday morning, I got to school early and walked into the meat locker formerly known as my classroom. Despite the loud fierce "FEEL ME, I'M A HEATER!" noises, there was no noticeable temperature change in the hour before classes started. By 4th period, my lips had turned blue. Students were fearful, and not in a good way I could take advantage of; I was shivering too violently to be commanding. In fact, the teens were admonishing me for not wearing a heavier sweater; when I mentioned that I'd worn the same outfit the week before without freezing, they shouted (seriously, as a juvenile Greek chorus) "But it's colder this week!" Suddenly I'm teaching budding meteorologists. All this from people who are still wearing flip flops and Capri pants in January.

Wednesday morning: A pocket-sized space heater arrives; I set it precisely next to my feet at the desk. (Remember - happy teacher, happy class). Of course, whenever I need to actually teach I am out of its range. I keep my coat on, along with my tank top/t-shirt/sweater layers, all day. Plus gloves, when I don't have to write on the chalkboard, or type. Three larger, more forceful space heaters appeared later in the day; one promptly blew a circuit that included my computer.

Thursday: Circuit repaired; classroom less icy by 10 am. At noon, two different breakers went down and when we moved the heaters to another outlet...Well. Apparently my room is a) so antiquated that modern power sources render it uninhabitable or b) possessed by wicked cold-loving spirits. My computer was out again, along with my iPod speakers and tiny personal ankle heater.

Friday morning: Our beloved building maintenance dude fixed all the circuits and turned on my space heaters at 6 am so that the room was cozy and functional by 8:30. I got to show off the t-shirt my sister gave me for Christmas (layered over a tank top and long-sleeve thermal undershirt), and NO GLOVES! However, the district maintenance gang let my principal know that the official stance on our situation is: We won't be fixing those heaters because they're too old; besides, this is just a cold snap. Blue lips? Who cares - we're an alternative school, right?

I'm wavering between grinning (with gritted chattering teeth) & bearing it through the cold snap and rallying a posse of our best hell-raisers to storm the district office. I'll decide when I've fully defrosted.


Anonymous said...

I'll warm you up...

Buddhist, RN said...

Brr. I hate that feeling. This wasn't as cold or anything, but in my first student teaching placement, the AC was on extremely high all the time. I think it was below 60 when it was about 90 outside. So not as freezing as you, but we looked pretty funny all walking out into the heat in sweaters and gloves. Unless you're doing a lot of moving around, that gets pretty cold.

I'd help you get a posse together if I were there!

I'm not all too familiar with alternative schools. What kind of things do you do?

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

Though Stu is more than willing to warm you up, I think it is wrong wrong wrong for the district to act like students & teachers don't need heat. It's not going to be warm for months.

What does that say to a student? Or the staff? I'm not feeling a lot of validation when my lips are blue.

I doubt my opinion means much. (Um, You can't freeze my dear friend!!!!!!! Or else I'll stomp my foot!!!!!! Yes, those marks were necessary...) But would a letter to the paper help? Put pressure on....

katydidnot said...

i dare not utter a word about the weather here, huh? i feel your pain.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

It's always nice to see what a high value our society places on education.

Maybe you could teach in the board of ed office, and they could meet in your room.

Mrs. G. said...

It makes me feel a little bit better that I am not the only teacher working under less than ideal circumstances. I am in a basement room, with no windows, heat that never shuts off-tank top anyone?-and very little ventilation. Sometimes I feel like I am teaching in the fog of teenage BO and breath. Did I mention we were the district's bastard child.

stephanie said...

Husband: You are the best. I think I'll keep you.

Miss Em: I appreciate your offer to help round up the outlaws; wish you were closer. Our alternative school is a place for kids who are either a) ahead of (and tired of playing) the game who can graduate early or b) needing to recover credits lost due to a variety of unpleasant factors. We welcome them, teach them, cheer for them.

Lisa: Let me consult my principal before we embark on letter-writing, just in case there is some help accidentally, secretly on the way. But stomp away, if it makes you feel better (works for me!).

Katy: Wise decision, beachcombing California girl. Thank you for the empathy. :)

Jenn: Rather unbelievable sometimes, huh? Great idea about trading spaces...Will think on that.

Mrs. G: Sounds like you're kind of where I was last year - on the stage in the auditorium, which was a consistent 90 degrees with sketchy lighting (unless we turned on the 10000 watt spots), where I had to disassemble my 'classroom' everyday so other groups could use the space. Sisters in bastardly solidarity!

Anonymous said...

Think your local news station would do an expose? Or do you know any parents who would complain to the district? Once, when I was six months pregnant and we were having a heat wave, the air stopped working in my classroom. I complained, my principal complained - nothing. Then I asked a few parents if they would mind calling and magically maintenance was there the next day.


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