Friday, 6 March 2015

Open the blinds - and your eyes

I’ve got a serious gripe: classrooms with all of the blinds pulled down.

Walking into one of our rooms with all three blinds drawn has the power to send me spiralling into a claustrophobic whirl of hyperventilation. The walls begin to creep in towards me. The strip lighting seems to surge and buzz. My skin shrieks out for vitamin D. I run scurrying for the pull cord.

Maybe it’s my poor eyesight. An enclosed classroom, to me, is a darkened cave in which children are (seemingly) given permission to behave like the woolly mammoths that might’ve once inhabited them. They lie, lump-like, slumped across tables.  A stray scarf or other uniform infraction – that might’ve been challenged – seems to go awry in the womb-like gloom of the cave.  A mobile phone creeps out of the crack of a trouser pocket…

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, it’s definitely children who seem to demand that the blinds are down. But, I have also heard one repeated, impassioned, retort from teachers when I’ve challenged them for enshrouding their classroom with the tug of a curtain cord: “Students can’t see the Powerpoint!”
Most of the time this simple issue can be solved with an equally simple solution: keep the blinds open and turn off the incessant, omnipresent, electric light instead! Although using high contrast text – black and white – can also offset a friendly fuzz from daylight too.

But if this doesn’t solve the solution…? Shock. Horror. Turn off the Powerpoint! Ask yourself, is it a useful prompt for students or simply a useful prompt for you?

When I read this recent article that suggests the ‘naturalness’ of classrooms has the power to boost learning, my grievance finally felt vindicated. Here was the evidence I’d hoped for. For it’s my stance that with light beaming in through the windows learning itself becomes illuminated, bouncing sharply from the exercise book page and lighting up the conversations between teacher and student.
So, next time you’re tempted to smother the sun with a couple of sheets of grey plastic, don’t. Open your eyes to what you’re doing.

Open the blinds.

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