Does bad weather affect student performance?'s Teacher Poll of the Week
Does bad weather affect student performance?

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Many people are affected by the winter blues. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is actually a diagnosable syndrome which is believed to be tied to lack of exposure to sunlight in the winter months. There are numerous theories about light therapy helping people affected by SAD but conclusive evidence is hard to find. Different doctors have different ideas on how to treat patients with SAD and sometimes anti-depressants are even used for some patients.

Even people who are not diagnosed with SAD, or whose symptoms are mild enough not to seek medical attention, can feel less happy during winter months. Something about looking outside and seeing day after day of dreary rain or several feet of snow does something to our mood. Students are not immune to this phenomenon either. An overwhelming majority of teachers report that bad weather affects student performance.

It would be interesting to study trends in test scores on a seasonal basis. Then compare U.S. trends with those in Australia who experience opposite seasons from us. If weather affects performance as much as teachers think then there would be opposing results from the two hemispheres. November through to March would be bad in the U.S., while May through to August would be bad in Australia. It's definitely an interesting theory.

Besides the seasonal bad weather affect on students there are also acute episodes of weather that affect classroom learning. If you've ever been in a classroom full of students when a big clap of thunder occurs, you'll know that everyone stops for a moment and then chatter about the noise breaks out. It takes a couple of minutes to recover and then before you know it the next roll of thunder starts the whole process over again. One student looking out the window and seeing the first snowfall of the season or rain that is falling sideways can lead to a whole classroom full of students peering out the window. Bad weather can be disruptive.

Maybe we should look at changing the whole school year. Let students stay home during the worst two months in the winter, when their attitude is at its worst and move schooling to the summer months when they aren't affected by the bad weather. Someone needs to propose this and see what kind of response they get from teachers and students. Concentrating on studies while the sun is shining might be just as difficult.