Walking to school. Uphill. Both ways. Without air conditioning.
Tall tales students will tell their grandchildren.
Adolescents today have Snapchat, Google Chromebooks, Instagram, and group texts, but many lack air conditioning in their 21st-century classrooms. It is like the students in the high school where I teach, and in the elementary and middle schools where my children learn in, are living in two eras, a dichotomy of technology.
Today, on the day of the administration of the New York State United States History Regents Exam, the custodians lined up desks in neat rows in the gymnasium with 100% humidity. The test, like its sister assessment, the Global History Regents exam, are part trivial pursuit, part Russian roulette, when combined with the moist air create the “ultimate” testing environment.
Students were seated with a view of their peer’s head directly in front of them, anxious teachers took deep breaths while opening the thick, white test packets — both groups wondering if their essay predictions had come true. While the students struggled to remain focused in their uncomfortable positions, the teachers offered tissues, black pens, and water. The teachers adhered to the “proctor code,” which includes the ability to pace and speak to colleagues in whispers.
This hot testing dance repeats every morning and afternoon for another six days.
Yesterday, I attended my youngest daughter’s third-grade picnic. It was very nice, the teachers more than gracious when serving the large, assembled group celebration fare. The sweat was dripping off these saintly teachers. The assembled parents fully appreciated the seasonal struggle facing both teachers and students. Later that day, on social media, a few parents agreed that they would be willing to pay a few more tax dollars to pay for the luxury of better conditions.
I know that air conditioning is a “first-world problem.” I know that in the United States we have so much to be grateful, but is it too much to ask that all schools have appropriate HVAC? Why do we allow some schools to have all the comforts and others to struggle? (Sometimes schools in the same school district have air conditioning while others do not have the blessed cool air.) And why, no matter the budget, are the offices always the appropriate temperature?
Maybe, in the future, the current students will lament to their grandchildren how bad they had it: when they had to go to school without reliable Wi-Fi in overheated classrooms?