The heating is on in our house. The winds are blowing outside. The dashboard in my car has been flashing warnings at me about the outside temperature being low enough to be icy on the road. The days are definitely looking greyer and getting shorter and shorter. Winter is just about here.
For me, these are all warning signs to get prepared for wrapping up warm outside. Learning to do this seems to be an experiential process. I can advise participants on courses to come dressed for being outside, but there is usually several people feeling the cold within a few minutes of being outdoors.
The above photo is one of my favourite from my Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. These are three students with their lecturer on the International Outdoor Education Masters degree at Linkoping University in Sweden. It is their first outdoor practical session. It’s easy to work out who is the lecturer! At the end of the morning, when the students were reviewing the session, the first comment made was the need to come better dressed! The good news is that a few months later, I saw lots of photos on Facebook from the students’ trip up north where everyone was thoroughly togged up.
For me, the clothing worn by adults who work outdoors with children is a good clue as to the amount of time they spend outside. As a general rule of thumb, most adults who spend time outside will be wearing boots, overtrousers, a waterproof and windproof jacket that is zipped up, a hat and gloves. Then there are those who experiment. Lynn McNair, from Cowgate Under 5’s Centre often wears biker trousers. Instead of gloves, I favour 2 pairs of power wrist gaters worn on top of each other so I can still do fiddly tasks.
Outdoor gear in many jobs is classed as technical gear that is to be supplied by the employers. This does happen occasionally in schools and nurseries but is still quite rare. In theory, I think this should happen more frequently, so that staff are encouraged to go outside and cannot use a lack of suitable clothing as a reason not to. Furthermore, having staff clearly identifiable, can be helpful for visitors and children. Certainly some of the comments on Gareth Malone’s blog about his Extraordinary School for Boys are quite eye-opening in terms of the expectations that teachers should be looking “professional” when at work. No jeans, no trainers, no nose rings, no problem, etc.
In practice, I would hate being told what to wear. I am, to quote an image consultant, “vertically challenged” which means that one-size-fits-all-clothing makes me look dumpy. I have a strange-shaped head which looks downright weird in most hats. My hands are unfeasibly small so gloves rarely fit me properly. I hate having cold feet so I rarely wear wellies. I prefer waterproof trail boots.
So for parents everywhere, I have a suggestion. If you feel you must give your child’s teacher a present this Christmas, then consider an outdoor garment or voucher for an outdoor shop. It’s an understated way of encouraging them to go outside all year round.