The school bell rings, and the students come in looking tired, groaning, or barely speaking due to exhaustion from lack of sleep. We try to have our students get to bed earlier for school, but we are not in control of this bedtime ritual in the home. Video games and smartphones have taken the place of early bedtimes. Students are going to bed later and setting themselves up for a difficult morning.
“Research shows that adolescents require at least as much sleep as they did as children, generally 8 1/2 to 9 1/4 hours each night” (National Sleep Foundation, n.d., sec. 2). For years, we have heard the research about school start time being too early for effective learning, yet may schools have not solved this problem through change of program development or the time the school bells ring. The reason administrators have behind this earlier start time is that it allows students ample time to be prepared for sports and after school programs. Why must high school end around 2:30 pm for sports. If all school districts statewide had a later mandatory start time of 8:30 or even 9:00 am. students would still have plenty of time for after school activities. Since I am unable to change school start times statewide, I would assess the programs offered first and second period, after the school start time.
It has been shown that exercise increases alertness and gets the blood circulating, therefore, physical education classes would be perfect for period one or morning classes and would actually enhance the learning process. According to Mooney (2017), “physical exertion also helps the mind, as children will find they are able to think more clearly and are able to focus better in other classes following a physical education period” (sec. 3). To improve scores, especially in numeracy, PE increases learning and memory and is effective for possible test score growth if implemented regularly and efficiently (Telford, 2017). This early PE class would allow for academic studies to begin at least 50 minutes later than the school start time and foster more alert students after vigorous exercise. Leadership must ensure a solid program for PE for it to be beneficial.
Sports not only increases alertness, but also provides a place for positive social inclusion. Physical education provides a place for students to communicate and develop social skills and can increase an individual’s self-concept (Bailey, 2007). This is another perfect start to the school day; community, teamwork, and engagement. Students are now awake, alert, engaged, and ready to tackle the day. I realize this is not the perfect solution to this dilemma, but I believe it is a compromise that can be implemented for most students, in certain grade levels, on certain days. Not every student can have PE first period due to class size, but a rotate and drop schedule would ensure that students have physical education classes in the morning a couple times a week. What time do you believe your high school day should begin? How can we address student sleep deprivation? I would love to hear your thoughts.
The National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Backgrounder: Later school start times, Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/backgrounder-later-school-start-times
Bailey, R. (2007.) Evaluating the relationship between physical education, sport and social inclusion, Educational Review, 57:1, 71-90. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ691124
Mooney, L. (2017, September 11). Why Is gym class important? Retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/443955-why-is-gym-class-important/
Telford, R. D. (2017). Physical education: clear and present benefits and responsibilities. The Fritz Duras memorial lecture 2017, Asia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education, 8:2, 133-145, DOI: 10.1080/18377122.2017.1307092