Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New Schedule

I feel like a car that just rolled out of a Michelin store: tired.

This year, our secondary schools all altered their bell schedules so that we start an hour later than we have been since Dewey practically wrote it into the public school code almost a hundred years ago. A direct consequence of this is that we also get out of school an hour later, well, not counting the extra 20 "phantom" minutes that were surreptitiously, though not so skillfully, sneaked into the contract day. As a result, I'm forcing myself to get to school later than I did last year, but it is not an easy task. As an natural early riser and morning person, I have long enjoyed the quiet, reflective solitude the mornings bring, using that time to catch the misspellings in the local paper, sip my pitch-black coffee, while seeing how badly my Astros lost on ESPN's Sportscenter. None of that has changed.

Only now, instead of loading my sleeping children into my car at 5:45am to have them at their grandmother's house at 5 of 6 in order to be in my classroom at 6:00am to begin my day, I get the chance to actually wake my kids up, get them dressed, and spend some time with them before they are energized by their breakfast and sunlight. It almost feels sinful and criminal to still be stirring around my own house at 6:15 in the morning on a school day. I KNOW that it's okay and that I'm still ahead of the modified schedule, but it's an uneasy feeling I definitely haven't gotten used to yet. But it only gets worse . . .

Once I arrive at school, now at 7 instead of 6, I stare out my classroom windows at the sun well above the horizon, and there is enough light spilling all around the exterior perimeter to drive my internal mechanism into full-fledged teaching mode. The only problem is . . . class doesn't start for another 90 minutes!!! I create lesson plans, check emails, and listen to my music to be industrious and to take my mind off the awkwardness of sitting in my classroom at 8am on a weekday and having no students. Heck, according to my circadian rhythms, it's already mid-morning. My this point in previous years, I was already more than halfway into my first invigorating lesson of the day, preaching the math with a rabid fervor that always woke students up better than a 5 dollar energy drink.

To make matters worse, I have first period conference this year!! Great. Now the bell rings for school to start at 8:35, and my room is STILL empty. I'm shaking from the exhaustion of holding in my teaching tiger. Not teaching really wears me out. The sun rises higher in the sky. The clock continues to spin. Somewhere in the city, a Bridge club is preparing Brunch, and I still have yet to disperse a single drop of didactical data. I'm going crazy! Whose idea was it to start so late anyway?

Finally, the clock says 10:10am. The bell rings for first period to end, which means only 5 more minutes until the start of 2nd period. 10:15am. I FINALLY greet my first class. I'm expecting them to be much more alert and awake and receptive to learning than in previous years. After all, it was the conclusive results of someone's research, somewhere, that stated that older students learn better later in the morning that was cited as the reason for the schedule change. Disappointedly, I did not, nor have not seen any palpable change in students' behaviors. Instead, I hear talk among friends about how they got to "stay up later" and "sleep in later." For the most part, they have already adjusted their sleep-deprived schedules forward as if they were merely compensating for daylight savings time.

Perhaps the worst side-effect of the new change is that much more of my afternoons are now lost. With the contract day ending at 4:25, I'm picking up kids and getting home in the increased traffic around 5, which is still not bad if you consider how most of the commuters in the city function, but for someone who is used to packing in an entire separate day, almost into his afternoon, a lot is lost. Many students who work after school lose wages as well. Sports teams get off the practice field later, leaving less time for home work, quality family time, nutritious meals, and video games. Jon Stewart seems to come on sooner. I think the only good thing coming out of it is that my mother-in-law gets to sleep in an hour later before I bring the kids to her house each morning.

Combine all this adjusting to a brand new year and trying to get my teaching feet back under me, it has been one difficult week to deal with . . . and it's only Wednesday. At least this weekend is a three-day weekend, which should be just enough time to relapse to my old sleep schedule and undo any adjustment progress I might be making this week.


Anonymous said...

I could not have said it better myself. At least my conference period is in the afternoon. My contract day ends at 4:15pm. By the time I've organized papers on my desk, it's 4:48pm. I'm glad I'm not the only one have a super hard time adjusting to the new schedule.

Anonymous said...

I'm not enjoying this new schedule either. Dragging a 5 year-old out of bed at 6:15 the morning after a brand new episode of Hannah Montana debuted the previous evening until 8:30 PM is no easy task. I mean, you can't just fall asleep right after something that exciting!
Seriously, getting home at 5:15, preparing dinner, eating dinner, cleaning up after dinner, doing homework, packing lunches, getting tomorrow's clothes ready, brushing teeth, taking baths, reading, and being asleep by 8:30 so we can get up 6:15 the next morning does not leave much family time in the evenings. Throw in gymnastics or church or piano practice or an episode of Wipe Out, and we're really tight.
This new schedule is exhausting for everyone.
I'm just glad we have my parents to help get us where we need to go and pick us up at the end of the day. Otherwise, none of us would be on time.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry by the end of the year it will seem as though you were never on a different schedule than this on. Of course having taught at a school which started late and ended its day around 4:15 and than coming to NBHS, I must admit I preferred the early start time. I wonder how the coaches like all of this? Now let me see, what time do I have to get up again?????:)

kwkorpi said...

Hey Bob,

How is YOUR adjustment to YOUR new schedule coming?

Take all the time you need!