Monday, April 28, 2008

School Bells

Next year, our high school has decided to start later each day than we have the last . . . . forever. Instead of requiring teenagers to be in their 1st period class ready to go back to sleep at 7:40, next year, the new morning bell will ring at 8:30am, giving students almost an extra hour each morning to sleep in later, rush to school, and pick up their tardy slips. Consequently, we'll be getting out of school almost an hour later in the afternoon, which means less sunlight for athletics to practice outdoors and math students to do their homework by natural light.

I'm a morning person, so I was disappointed to hear of the new time change, but change is something we've all had ample opportunities to adapt to. The reasoning behind the change, which also calls for an EARLIER start time for elementary schools, is that teenagers' brains work more efficiently during the new hours. Research has documented that adolescent's prefer staying up late and sleeping in later, shirking the responsibility of maintaining a healthier schedule and diet in favor of a reckless, hedonistic lifestyle of self-indulgence. There is safety in numbers! We are now changing to accommodate them. It's a little like the tail wagging the dog.

Although I can't totally disagree with the decision if I thought the change would actually enable students to perform better, I think students will just shift their habits by one hour and we'll be right back where we are today, and throw in the additional complaints by students that their afternoons are now "shot!" Students in after-school athletics might have to practice right through family dinner time (if there IS such a thing anymore.) Students with after-school jobs will have to adjust their employment schedules, potentially earning less money from the loss of time. This means teens will have less disposable income for Large Javas and .mp3 downloads. The only thing these newly financially strapped teens will able to afford is the free math homework they get in school, which they'll have to do by candlelight late at night. Good thing they'll have that extra hour to sleep in!

The real reason I believe our district is jumping on the "starting later" bandwagon is because so many elementary students are currently being dropped off at their campuses very early in the morning on their parents' way to work. Call them "Reverse Latch-Key" Kids. Imagine a small group of 2nd graders running around a playground at 7am in the morning in the pitch black! What a better scenario for playing "Hide and Seek." With many parents having no other option, there is a legitimate safety concern for these children being dropped off so early and unattended: low spots on the playground are hard to detect in the dark, and they could easily trip and twist an ankle. Their screaming cries for help will make them easy targets in the "Hide and Seek" game, making in no fun really.

But if older students learn better later in the day, do younger students learn better earlier? And if so, is it true for ALL students? As anyone who has taken a statistics course, conducted a survey, or has a pulse, you know you can find the evidence to support any claim you wish to make, and if you don't believe me about this, I have the data to back it up! Of course, now the parents of the elementary students who do NOT drop their kids off early, but rather get their little ones to school at 8:25, are upset that they have to rise earlier themselves. The new change will require some rescheduling of family schedules and logistics, but that's a small price to pay to avert twisted ankles.


Anonymous said...

I guess that means the teachers can no longer hide in the low spots!

kwkorpi said...

We trip up students enough in our math classes, we shouldn't add insult to injury be taking it to the playground.