In one, or perhaps more, of his Lake Wobegon monologues, Garrison Keilor says that cold is a stimulant for sound thinking. I’m a firm believer in that proclamation, even though Keilor’s tone in delivering it is, like so much of his stuff, couched in a sort of loving satire so that you don’t really know if he believes it himself.
I believe it cuz I have empirical evidence. Actually, I’m not sure I really even know what “empirical” means anymore. But I do know that this past week, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, classes were miserable since my room was about 87 degrees. But everything changed on Thursday since temperatures plunged to the mid 50s outside, giving my classroom a chance to get down to what’s known as “room temperature.” Everything was better. The kids were in better moods, I got more engaging in the classroom, and my lessons seemed to plan themselves.
But that night, the temps got low enough that the school’s heating system kicked in, and in my classroom, it remained kicked in all day. By the afternoon, it must have been back to the low 80s in the room. I had opened up all the windows, turned the fans back on, and moved all the knobs to their lowest settings on the “thermostat.” For those who don’t know, “thermostat” comes from the Greek roots, “thermo,” meaning heat, and “stat,” which, as anyone who’s watched ER knows, means “right now.” So really, my thermostat was doing its real job, which is to deliver heat to a room like a pint of blood to a guy who just got hit by a car.
My students were back to their whiney, cloudy-thinking selves by the end of the 50-minute class period, and I started fantasizing about sending them to the ER. I can’t tell you how many of them walked into the room and uttered some variation of “oh my god, it’s like a sauna in here.” The first few students got an explanation from me: “yeah, the heater running at full strength.” One of the little geniuses helpfully suggested that I “should turn the thermostat down.”
“Actually, yeah,” I replied, “I’ve thought of that.”