First, a big thank you to those of you who read and commented on my last blog from Nov. 6. I am so appreciative for your energy, questions, suggestions and encouragement. So many of you expressed “we can do this!” And of course, I agree.
I had the pleasure of being at Squalicum High School Wednesday morning to meet with staff. I arrived early to set up – 6:30 am. I was surprised that when I walked into the school, I was not alone. There were numerous students heading to 6:30 am zero hour classes. While I am sure they are passionate about why they were coming early, seeing their sleepy eyes and just imagining what time they actually woke up…well, it further solidified for me the need for us to figure out how to get high school to start later.
If we had high school start at say 8:30 a.m., and we were able to add more elective opportunities during the day (i.e. a 7 or 8 period schedule), those students I saw this morning could potentially get two more hours of sleep. Instead of coming to school at 6:30 a.m., we could start at 8:30 a.m. The pediatricians in our community would say this would be a game changer for kids. I agree.
It was serendipitous that this same day the Seattle Times published an article all about “pushing back start school start times to better match teens” biological clocks.” They acknowledge the complexity of this process while also pointing to the mounting evidence of improvements in student “health, mood, attendance and, in some cases, learning.”
I sent this link to staff to keep this topic on their radar, and to my surprise, dozens responded, some just to say thanks, but many offered compelling stories and anecdotes. Some staff commented about teaching the “zombie teenagers” during zero hour and first period and the difference in learning and engagement during third period and after.
And I heard from staff who are also parents:
- “My three boys were late every day at Sehome and we live close to the school. I couldn’t get them out of bed. I had a squirt bottle of water that I would spray above their heads and it would slow mist down on them. They hated it, but at least they would jump out of bed and start chasing me!”
- “When our youngest was in high school and taking the zero period jazz band class, we literally had to drag him from the bed, wake him up in the shower (where he literally would fall asleep leaning against the wall), and stuff him with his instrument in the car with breakfast in hand (the buses do not run for zero period). He told us he was pretty useless for the first part of jazz band because he couldn’t wake up. We were so stressed out as a family trying to maintain this schedule every day for four years. My husband and I would take turns, but the toll was significant.”
- “I totally agree that growing youth need more sleep and I support the later start time. My son was in Showstoppers and since we live seven miles out of town (and he was the chauffeur for all of his friends), he woke up at 5:30 to arrive on time, often after being at rehearsals for whatever musical he was in at BHS. He was often sick from this demanding schedule. He powered through, but at a cost. He is now working on his BFA in Musical Theater. Even with a very rigorous schedule, he says it is easier than what he went through at high school. “
More thoughts to come…