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How does the weather affect student behaviour?

A common sigh of exasperation can be heard in staffrooms nationwide when certain weather appears. Teachers and childcare professionals report that kids are louder than normal and there is a sense of gloom or depression to accompany the dark, dreary weather. Electricity in the air or thunder magnifies any of these behaviour issues.

For many teachers, this might be hard-won experience that they can’t necessarily quantify – they just know that certain weather brings out the worst behaviour in some students – and they’re absolutely correct.

“Seasonal Affective Disorder is usually in the autumn through winter months,” Director of Health and Counselling Centre Tim Hodges says. “It’s related to circadian rhythm and a drop in serotonin levels due to less sunlight.”

During the winter months, many pupils might be coming into school wet or cold, leading to frustration and an inability to concentrate. Combined with the lack of access to physical exercise or an outlet that might enable pupils to burn through some energy, tensions can boil over quickly.

There have been more than a few studies that shows a clear correlation between weather and behaviour, starting as far back as 1898 when Edwin G. Dexter studied children in several US schools. Using over 600 corporal punishment cases, he found the weather to be a key correlating factor. In studies in 1977 and later, scientific data pointed to the drop in barometric pressure as the potential culprit.

Dr Maria Simonson of Johns Hopkins noted that a falling barometer results in an atmosphere that pushes down on the body, constricting capillaries that causes a reduction of oxygen to the brain, possibly resulting in children’s behaviour changes. On top of that is the obvious fact that children’s brains are still developing and may not be able to fully rationalise changes in how they feel.

Here are some things that might help you combat the poor behaviour

  • Pay attention to weather forecasts so you’re aware when low pressure systems are moving in. Times of extreme systems might not be the best days to plan a lot of outings or high pressure work.
  • Set out work that is not as challenging and remain interactive with the class, engaging in discussions and light-hearted chatter.
  • Keep the environment especially calming. Harsh lighting, messy classrooms and loud noises might trigger certain reactions.
  • Wait it out. Once you know there’s a reason for the behaviour, it’s generally easier to make it through it. The storm will pass, in more ways than one!

An interesting feature that BehaviourWatch has is that it links directly to your local MET office so that as an when an incident is recorded, the system automatically takes note of what the temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure and weather type to help identify patterns and trends that may affect behaviour, meaning you can place interventions in order to prevent the same recurring behaviour on such days.

For more information about BehaviourWatch and how it can help your school, click here.