241. About the School Building

Teachers sometimes get so used to problems that they forget that they’re problems, and certainly don’t entertain the notion that there could be solutions. This is often the case with the school building. School buildings are mostly designed by non-teachers. Attention is paid to the needs of teachers and children, partly because some attention is required by law, and partly because the community cares about education, educators, and children.
When I taught, sometimes I gathered the children in a circle on the rug,
to have class discussions, during which children were expected to listen to each other. In the winter, the radiator made a steady noise, not loud enough to distract children from concentrating on reading, writing, calculating, thinking, or one-to-one conversations. And we teachers usually had loud enough voices to be heard above the drone of the radiator.
But when everyone in the class was supposed to listen to one child, the sound of the radiator often made that quite a challenge. In some cases, I was able to time it so that the radiator stopped making noise just as we were about to begin our discussion. I submit that such careful timing should not be necessary. I’ve been in many buildings that have fairly quiet, unobtrusive heating systems. For the most part, though, they weren’t school buildings.
And then there are the lights. Once in a while, I read or hear news about the harmful effects of flourescent lighting. Some teachers and children get headaches from fluorescent lights, and I remember a study suggesting that such lights may aggravate hyperactivity. I haven’t read or heard any such reports about incandescent lights. People usually use incandescent, not flourescent, lights in their homes. I once pointed out this discrepancy at a staff meeting, and I saw some surprised, concerned looks among teachers, some knowing looks. Some teachers had faced this issue long ago, and knew something I didn’t know.
They knew about King Money. King Money is not such a benevolent despot. If a heating system is too loud, or if a lighting system is causing health problems, King Money doesn’t care. Quiet heating systems and healthier lighting systems cost more money, and the king won’t allow such luxuries (except in the royal palace).
When people first decided to build public schools, they were deciding to spend a portion of their hard-earned money and/or spend lots of energy
to educate their children. I’ll bet there were plenty of people who opposed that decision. Some thought they could do the job fine without public schools. Some didn’t have children, and didn’t want to pay for services they didn’t think they were going to use. Objections like those are still around today.
But if we are going to invest money in public schools, we owe it to children and their teachers to spend what needs to be spent to make those schools good places in which to spend time. For example, healthy, quiet heating and lighting systems would be nice.

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