Monday, November 7, 2016

Old Mr. Sandman

I am in desperate need of a chronobiologist.  Admittedly, I didn't really even know that term until I started writing this piece, but I know now that an expert who can study the circadian rhythms of my own body -- as well as the 100 + students with whom I interact each day.  Such an individual could certainly help to explain why even though I KNOW I got an extra hour of sleep this past weekend, it hasn't done anything to improve my functionability on this fine Monday, not to mention the attitudes of the aforementioned students.

Data shows that teenagers require 8 - 10 hours of sleep a night.  Honestly, most of my students report bedtimes well after midnight, and these same individuals are in my classroom before 8 am, so the actual number of kids sleeping 8 - 10 hours are probably counting the hours they nap in classes during the school day.  

Certainly one of the major arguments I have heard AGAINST the idea of later school start times involves the early dismissals necessary for sports activities.  The later the school day begins, the more class time will be missed for games, matches, and competitions.  It seems odd that extracurriculars would drive something as critically important, but it certainly speaks to a potential contribution to the discussion.

Our district has a chunk of time in the beginning of the day known as Tribe Time.  Roughly a half hour to catch up with teachers, meet with others to work on projects, take that quiz that you missed last week, etc.  It also serves to push the academic "start" for the day to sometime near the magical recommended 8:30 am start time.

Here's the deal, though.  TODAY, 8:30 should have felt like 9:30 to these bodies in my world.  Aside from a few kids saying how nice it was to see sunlight on the way to the bus stop this morning, there were few who sang the praises of Monday with the enthusiasm of the soundtrack of Oklahoma.

So how can we, as educators, make an impression on the sleepless that sleep is important?  They all love it -- heck, even I love it.  Why do we choose to make sleep the one thing that we deny indulging in while living in a society of overconsumption?

Tomorrow I am going to celebrate sleep.  I'm going to ask kids to describe it, and I'm going to get them to consider how much happiness it provides.  We're going to look at why we don't have enough time to sleep, and see what has happened to the idea of happy, well-rested kids over the last century, as we've evolved to this permanent state of exhaustion that seems to exist.

Did I mention that we're working on Zeitgeist?  Literally translated, it's "Spirit of the Times."  Right now, I'm hoping that Old Mr. Sandman is the spirit that embodies the times.