Primary school sunsets

Primary school teachers are among the most important people on the planet: to be honest, it is hard to imagine anyone more significant in the shaping of generations of people than those who taught them at primary school. Primary school teachers must also be among the most long-suffering of people on the planet: how they put up with the daily experience of classroom life is a mystery, lesser mortals would have run screaming from the building. The thought of facing day after day in a primary school classroom is enough to send shivers down the spine, how would you find the required energy and the necessary enthusiasm to sustain the constant good cheer that is the hallmark of primary school life?

There must be particular pupils who are the bane of the life of the classroom teacher. There are those who get into trouble, against whom sanctions are possible; and there are those who are excessively smart, in the face of whom the teacher can only smile benignly and hope that someone else might ask a question.

It is not hard to imagine there being “smart” questions this week. Most pupils would be able to suggest the date of the winter solstice; most would be able to suggest that the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere was around 21st December. One of the challenges brought into school by the Internet is that there are countless websites providing information to inquiring minds. An inquiring mind is the sort that would follow websites like with all the information it provides about sunrises and sunsets, and seasons and calendars.

Such mathematical exactitude is the sort of thing that appeals to those who ask awkward questions of teachers whose focus is literacy and numeracy and who have dozens of more pressing concerns to address. The mathematically exact will have noticed that whilst the days continue to get shorter until 21st December, something odd happens. This week, the sunset stops getting earlier and by the time of the solstice it is two minutes later than it is this weekend. It is later sunrises that lessen the lengths of the days. It is not hard to imagine a hand being raised and a voice from the back of the classroom saying, “Miss, why do the evenings start getting longer this week?” Perhaps the best response from the teacher is to suggest that it should be a research project for the inquirer who can then return and tell the class about their discovery.

Who would teach in primary school?


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