What If We Stopped Having The Jacket Debate?

When I get a new follower on Twitter, I often go to his/her Twitter page to see what he/she is sharing and find out more about the follower. This is what I did today when I noticed that FloradTeach started following me. What I didn’t expect to see was a link to a blog post that has had me thinking ever since: I’m Not Cold.

Is A Jacket Always Necessary? Who Decides?

Is A Jacket Always Necessary? Who Decides?

This post really hit home for me because I am the teacher that enforces that students wear their coats. Before heading outside each day, we talk about the temperature and what outdoor clothing items students wore to school. Then we discuss what they need to wear outside based on the weather. This I’m Not Cold blog post is making me start to question my approach.

The first thing that I thought of is that I’m rarely cold. I’ve been wearing sandals for weeks — as soon as the snow melted away — and while I usually wear a jacket, I rarely do it up. I love fresh air. We always open the window in our classroom, I always turn the fan on beside my bed at night, and I always delight when the cool breeze blows on my face outside. If I don’t always feel cold, do the students?

The second thing that I thought of is how my partner and I approached getting dressed and undressed during the winter months. Snowpants and additional outdoor clothing seemed to cause some students stress, and instead of arguing about the clothing coming off each morning, we let the children get undressed at their own pace. Most students got undressed right away, but a few students came into the classroom, sat down for a snack, and/or even started to engage in a learning centre with peers, and then got undressed when they started to feel warm. Usually this happened within the first hour of the day, but sometimes students stayed in their snowpants longer than this. Does this really matter? We always have the window open in the classroom, so the children never got overheated. Maybe some students were cold … and if this is the case, then would it not hold true that outside, maybe some students are hot?

Just like we didn’t enforce getting undressed during these winter months, we also considered outdoor dressing requirements. After talking to parents, for those students that were really stressed out by snowpants, we didn’t require that they wear them. We always provided the choice, and often brought the snowpants outside in case the children got cold later. If the temperature wasn’t that cold though, did the snowpants really matter? Students knew what they wanted to do outside and if they needed snowpants for these kinds of activities (e.g., making snow angels). Maybe just like snowpants in wintertime, jackets in springtime are less of an issue than they need to be.

The final thing that I thought of is if we make decisions for children, how do they learn to make them on their own? I’m a big believer in not micromanaging students regardless of age. Children choose where they sit. They choose where they eat lunch. They choose where they go to learn, and they often choose how they share their thinking and learning. This doesn’t mean that we don’t provide scaffolding for these kinds of choices, provide mini-lessons when necessary, encourage some variation, and/or support students when problems arise. We do. But if we see children as capable, then we need to give them opportunities to make choices, make mistakes, learn from them, and try again. And this is where I feel very guilty because I do this almost all of the time except for when it comes to “wearing a coat.” Why can’t they make this coat decision too? 

It’s officially springtime in Ontario. The temperature is warming up. On most days, students just bring a light jacket anyway. Maybe it’s time to let go and stop having the “coat debate” every day. What if children decided? If students bring their jackets outside with them, they can always put them on and/or take them off depending on how they feel. Do we need to make this dressing routine more complicated than this? What do you think? I would love to know what you do and why.


4 thoughts on “What If We Stopped Having The Jacket Debate?

  1. Aviva,
    I think this is a great question to ask, and one that I learned from a mentor of mine years ago has a pretty simple answer related to choices and consequences. As with most everything in my classroom, children make decisions for themselves and often they have to feel the “pain” of the natural consequence of a poor choice. Sometimes it’s related to behavior in the classroom, or not being ready for class or not finishing an assignment on time so they have to miss something fun. In this case, they choose whether or not they wear their warm clothes and then, if necessary, they feel the natural consequences of that choice—if they need them but choose not to take them out, then they are cold. The decision they make next time will probably be much different. A variation of the coat choice is that I make them take their coat with them (just in case) but they may decide to wear it or carry it. Once they get outside, then, they can even further choose what they do with that coat. For me it’s just an extension of a philosophy of student choice and control over things that they can handle, which helps them gain confidence, build self-esteem and decision making skills as well as learn cause/effect relationships. And you’re right–it’s one less thing you have to worry about! Thanks for sharing your thinking!

    • Thanks for sharing your thinking here, Jen! I think it’s a great idea to bring the coat along, as then children can always put it on if it’s cold outside. I would worry about the lack of a coat when it gets to -20, but on a Spring day, I’m less concerned. And if children really struggle with the decision making, then we can always support them in this decision (as we would with others). The more that I think about this, the more that this plan makes sense. I’m curious to hear what others do.


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