Teenagers are just not morning people
Published 12:00 am, Tuesday, September 26, 2017
High school kids don’t do well in the morning.
It’s the semi-consciousness.
Granted, they seem to function in a fog at other times, but it is more pronounced around dawn’s early light. You can see this at the bus stops. Catatonics are a lively bunch compared to a group of high schoolers waiting for the big yellow thing to come scoop them up.
I used to think the reason you saw teenagers wearing T-shirts in November was because ignoring the cold was cool. I’ve since come to realize they are oblivious to the thermometer because it’s still too early for them to see a connection between T-shirts, temperature and shivering.
It’s really not their fault. Adolescent brains are wired to stay up late at night, doing God knows what, and sleeping in come morning. This, of course, will change when they get older and bladder urges dictate sleep patterns. But back to the zombies.
Because high school students are required to be up at the unholy hour of 6 or 7 a.m., they don’t get the recommended nine hours of oblivion their still-developing brains require. The accumulative effect of this institutionalized sleep deprivation is apparent on weekends, when it is not uncommon for a parent to tiptoe into their offspring’s bedroom in the late afternoon and hold a mirror under their nose to confirm they are still among the living dead.
School administrators have been aware of this sleep-deprivation situation for years, but have been reluctant to address the problem. The obvious solution would be to have high schools start an hour or two later, when the adolescent brain is no longer locked in sleep mode. Such an adjustment would not only benefit students, but teachers, as well. Imagine first periods in which class participation was no longer measured in grunts.
The major obstacle to the late start usually involves such considerations as the disruption of bus timetables, parents’ work schedules and extracurricular activities. To start high school at the same time as elementary schools and/or junior highs would required the purchase of additional buses. This would mean additional costs for vehicles, drivers, insurance, etc.
I don’t have a problem with the added costs. I have a bigger problem. I am talking about the chaos stemming from even more school buses being on the road during the morning crush. As it is now, the average commute can vary between maddening and road rage, depending on the length of the line behind the local slow boat to academia. Somewhere along the way, the concept of the neighborhood bus stop has devolved into door-to-door service. Not only do buses stop at each individual home, but they often appear to wait for the passengers to finish breakfast. Only a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles causes more throbbing forehead veins than being caught behind a school bus with concierge service.
What’s new in the debate about later school starting times is a recent study by the Rand Corp., which found adopting such a schedule would result in a $9 billion a year benefit nationwide. This would come from enhanced academic performance among students and thus higher lifetime earnings, as well as a reduced rate of traffic accidents among comatose adolescent drivers. What the Rand study does not factor in, unfortunately, is the increased cost of treating coffee-jacked adults fuming behind school buses.
Perhaps there is a solution. Has anybody ever studied the advantages of high school night school? Maybe starting the first class of the day at say 6 p.m. This would solve the logy brain problem, the extra school buses problem, the extracurricular activities problem and the traffic problem.
Sometimes I do wonder why I don’t get the big money.
Jim Shea is a lifelong Connecticut resident and journalist who believes the keys to life include the avoidance of physical labor and I-95. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @jimboshea.