On Leveraging Technology Part Two of Several:

To leverage is to use the power or force of a lever in the literal sense, and in the figurative—to advantage for accomplishing a purpose. This is a great educational word.

I once had a mentor tell me I should teach every day as if a parent were standing in the doorway demanding excellence for their child. This is a great educational standard. It is also a recipe for failure, which I’m ok with (as I’ve blogged about before, twice). The truth is, the days I really use technology in the classroom are the days I would never want a parent standing at the door.

A newsletter comes home every week from my children’s teachers. Lately, they are full of pictures. The most recent newsletter is full of pictures of students “doing science.” 50% of the pictures are of kids looking at screens. It is not an image of kids doing anything observable.

The image of my classroom or my children’s classroom should not trouble me if the technology is being leveraged, if the technology is being used to advantage to accomplish a purpose. I teach English and sometimes students are staring at books in my classroom, and other times computer screens. I completely get it is part of the fabric of a class. The trouble I have, more often than not, is with the word advantage. An old French word, advantage means a positon in advance of another. It means profit or superiority. It means before. More often than not my lessons that use technology could be carried out on paper. What advantage is the technology? It saves me deciphering handwriting. It is faster, mostly. This begs the question—why is speed something to value in learning?

My son has a lesson on water, and the way it forms land. The class starts on the computers looking at photos of Mars. Amazing. They observe how the land is shaped, determine there is sedimentary rock in a channel (full disclosure I don’t understand how they determined this) and deduce it was shaped thus by water. The homework is to look around their neighborhood, or town and describe land formed by water. This strikes me as odd, it seems the reverse path practicing scientists take. Don’t practitioners observe their world around them and then make connections to new discoveries and distant objects? My son can describe how water forms land, but does he understand how science works? How scientists have used observation since Galileo? He’s 13, what lesson is the most valuable? It didn’t take long for him to learn how water forms land, but did he miss out on a larger, more important understanding? It is possible I’m being persnickety, but I can’t shake the feeling the technology was used to be used and not necessarily used to the advantage of student learning. I’m not so much questioning a colleague’s choices here, as playing the role of parent in the doorway.

What advantage can these machines provide? How do I, as a classroom teacher, rectify the research showing the use of computers does not help much? It seems computers do not increase understanding any faster than any other educational innovation. The results of a seven-year study of the most scrutinized laptop 1:1 program showed laptops allowed test scores to raise at about the same rate as other counties without them:

“Test scores did go up a lot in Mooresville after 2008, when it started handing out laptops. But Hull calculated that test scores also soared by about the same amount in neighboring counties, which didn’t give laptops to each student.”

Additionally, Jill Barshay notes that the computer implementation had a negative impact on how much time students read books:

“From student surveys, the researchers found that Mooresville students reduced their time reading books by more than four minutes a day, on average, to roughly 40 minutes a daily in 2011 from more than 45 minutes daily when the laptop program was introduced. Meanwhile, kids in neighboring counties increased their daily reading by two minutes.  Four minutes might not sound like a lot, but over the course of a year that adds up to more than 25 fewer hours of reading, which is substantial. Unfortunately, the state stopped administering that survey after 2011 and it’s unknown if book reading rebounded.  But if time spent reading continued to deteriorate, that could partially explain why reading scores didn’t rise as much as the math scores did.”

I suppose this is natural, the new technology will eclipse the old. As mentioned above, I’m a bibliophile, so this sort of news is personally heartbreaking, but I recognize it is not for everyone. But even the lightest research yields rafts of studies where brain researchers are determining that, at best, the results of reading from a screen are only equal to reading from the page. The screen offers no advantage. The more troubling problem arises when one notes these even results occur when testing for basic comprehension not more complex understanding. Even then, the device sometimes can get in the way of the content. Students often report on how they use the device, and then on the content the device provided. The larger problem is, when asked more sophisticated questions, as described in Naomi Barron’s New Republic article, Why Digital Reading is no Substitute for Print, print wins every time. So, the clearest conclusion here is integration of technology succeeds most clearly in pushing out a more successful technology.

Barshay again:

“Students continued to spend as much time on homework as before but spent more of their homework time on a computer.”

The New Republic findings indicate this homework time is less productive, less focused, and equally concerning is this conclusion from Barshay:

“… the highest achievers and lowest achievers didn’t benefit more from the laptops than average students. One of the arguments ed tech advocates make is that educational software can help slower learners review material while quicker learners jump ahead to new topics, with each student learning at his own pace. But the researchers didn’t see stronger test score gains among the bottom quarter or the top quarter of students relative to students in the middle. They did notice, however, that higher performing students were more likely to increase their time on computers.”

The device succeeds most at encouraging more time on the device. A New Jersey school district (also reported on by Barshay) ditched the 1:1 program altogether. The device has some advantages, and is more popular, yet brain research holds with paper. This is not just the preference of luddites and bibliophiles. The long term scientific brain studies are continually reaching the same conclusions previously reached by authors such as Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Sven Brikerts, and Nicholas Carr in their fiction and memoirs across nearly 80 years. How do we leverage something not offering a clear advantage? Huxley and Neil Postman would argue that what we love will destroy us. Birkerts and Carr posit our love of technology is leaving us with a lack of depth. I suppose I’m arguing that we’re missing the important points. My son misses out on a clear experience of the scientific process, my students type drafts and feel they are done because they look done (all typed up neat and clean), and when we read from the screen we receive diminishing returns. I find irony in the fact that the term “leverage technology” comes out of a program adopted by my district titled “deep learning.” It seems technology is great for many things, but depth is not one of them.

So, in addition to my previous questions, we’re left with this: technology is here, and it will remain. How do we leverage it both in the classroom and in personal space so it works to our advantage and does not inhibit our learning and engagement with our lives? I’ve found some terms and am reading some research I will parse in my next post that attempt to offer some possible answers to this troubling situation.

 

Equity: From Policy to Practice

This past Tuesday, I spoke at our local school board meeting in favor of a draft Board Policy taking a proactive stance on educational equity in our system. Over the last few months, I’ve been tangentially involved with reviewing and revising this proposed policy, and as it nears final approval, I wanted to be sure to voice my position about why we need an “equity policy.”

Early on in this work, I felt that the policy was rather controversy-free. It called out the need for our system to take proactive steps to ensure equitable outcomes for all learners, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status or disability. How could that raise controversy?

I learned something quickly, though: Talking equity for students with disabilities? No sweat. For kids in poverty? People are all-in. Gender? Hardly a ripple, despite the struggles many have accepting the reality that non-binary and transgender students exist.

Race? A much different story.

That we would propose a policy addressing racial equity was baffling to many people… staff and community members alike.

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Many Voices, One Chorus

Oprah Winfrey often talks about the one thing every person truly wants; to be seen and to be heard. This makes sense and can impact your classroom when kept in mind while teaching. It turns out it can impact whole groups of people when applied to policy making.

Recently, I was reminded the power of being seen and heard as I read document produced by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) called the Concise Explanatory Statement for Chapter 392-400 WAC. This 166-page document provides a thorough summary capturing all of the comments put forth by the public as the state went about rewriting policy surrounding discipline in our schools. I was struck by the quality AND quantity of statements parents in particular contributed and how the state was mindful of these comments as they created new policy. This document clearly shows not only whether or not each comment was reflected in final policy, but also where specifically an impact had been made. This started me thinking about the importance of participating in educational policy discussions, both as a teacher and as a parent. But where do you even begin?

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Civil Discourse, in the Classroom and Beyond

Election Day is approaching, and I am reminded of an ongoing struggle I face as a teacher, the need for civil discourse.

The strife and anger expressed by political figures and everyday people on social media penetrates our communities at every level. Our politically divided society has far-reaching effects, and we teachers know that these effects manifest in our classrooms far too often.


I teach in a generally conservative community, which is also home to a large immigrant population. There is built-in conflict and a wide array of opinions, both well-informed and based on hearsay. Leading up to the presidential election two years ago, I was breaking up heated arguments in the halls of our junior high between 12-year olds. They didn’t fully understand the issues; they were parroting what their parents were saying, no doubt, but I remember being shocked, and deeply concerned. How did the political climate infiltrate our tiny, rural school?

Then, when the election was over, I was worried. I have behavior expectations around discussion and debate that require respect on all sides. I wondered if my students would still respect these ideals when their most admired figures did not adhere to respectful behavior or civil discourse. How can I have high expectations of my students when the adults around them were so far from civil? The whole world seemed full of terrible examples of uncivil behavior, and this continues today in the extreme, with bombings, shootings, hate crimes, and blatant hate-mongering on social media.

Although it seems like a monumental task, it is still our responsibility as teachers to instruct the key skills that can combat all of this incivility. If we intentionally instruct and model civil discourse, we can help our students build a better future.

Civil discourse is the engagement in conversation to enhance understanding. It requires respect for all others involved, without judgment. You cannot conduct civil discourse if it is obvious that you question the good sense of your peers. You cannot conduct yourself with hostility, sarcasm,  mockery, or excess persuasive language. You have to accept the views of others as valid, despite your disagreement.

Now take a moment to imagine what that looks like in a junior high classroom. How about a high school debate? Conversation over Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family? Interactions on social media? A political debate? What if civil discourse was the norm?

The Common Core and Washington State Language Arts Standards are explicit in the requirements for discussion and communication:

“To become college and career ready, students must have ample opportunities to take part in a variety of rich, structured conversations—as part of a whole class, in small groups, and with a partner—built around important content in various domains. They must be able to contribute appropriately to these conversations, to make comparisons and contrasts, and to analyze and synthesize a multitude of ideas in accordance with the standards of evidence appropriate to a particular discipline. Whatever their intended major or profession, high school graduates will depend heavily on their ability to listen attentively to others so that they are able to build on others’ meritorious ideas while expressing their own clearly and persuasively.”

As teachers, the urge to stay out of it, to be apolitical and neutral is strong. We don’t want to offend our students, their families, or our communities. However, we must model that we all have views and ideas, and how we express them is important. We do not force our views on others, but, instead, we invite discourse. Our students need to learn to share their ideas and listen to their peers. They need to understand the importance of researching the issues and verifying their sources. They need to practice protocols of debate and dialogue that guide them to be supportive listeners, even when they disagree.

On my quest to be a better teacher of civil discourse, I am piecing together some resources. These are diverse and inspirational, but certainly incomplete. Check them out, and let me know what I am missing.

This is our calling as teachers. We are nation builders. Let’s build a nation full of citizens who are well-versed in civil discourse.

Essentials in Dialogue

Teaching Tolerance: Civil Discourse in the Classroom

Wall Street Journal: New Topic on Campus Civil Discourse 101

Sarah Cooper’s Why We Won’t Be Having No Holds Barred Debates This Year

Katherine Cadwell’s TedX Students Need to Lead the Classroom, Not Teachers  

What is the Harkness Discussion?

 

On Leveraging Technology Part 1 of Several: Some Background

This year I have more technology in my room than I have ever had in fifteen years of teaching. I don’t know how I feel about it. The phrase in my district is “leverage technology.” I like this quite a lot, especially in contrast to the experience my own children are having in a different district. My children’s district decided to go one-to-one. Technology immersion, seems to be the tactic. It has been a rough transition. As a parent who has used technology mindfully, and been very deliberate about my kid’s exposure to technology, seeing my child use it all the time because he “has to for school” is unnerving. I want to spend some time analyzing these two approaches, and see what I can figure out (if anything). But this post is just background, the setting of the stage.

My early mantra around technology for my personal life and for my classroom was: technology must enhance what I’m doing not distract me from it. I’m not convinced we’ve figured out how to do this in education, as a system. I’m mostly positive a few individuals have figured this out. I’m in the process.

I want to be clear: I am not anti-technology. I coupled my English major with a computer science minor and used contractor jobs building websites to help pay off my student loans. Though I write often in a notebook, all my writing eventually is on a computer. I did resist a cell phone for years, mostly because I didn’t want something else to carry. I teach and have taught hybrid and fully online classes for years. Though, my family hasn’t owned a television in fifteen years.

I am of an age where I can remember the world pre-internet, as I’m sure many readers of this blog are, but I mention it because watching the web come into being taught me something about how I would use it. I lost friends to computers. They just became more interested in the machine and then we spent less and less time together. Nothing too serious, or out of the ordinary coming-of-age stuff, but I noticed. Then, in college, I read Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, and, being the serious minded young person I was, I thought hard about both the messages I received and the medium through which I received them.

Then I started teaching. I’ve had varying access to technology over the years, and I’ve used much of it. I’ve had a bank of computers, a smartboard, a small cache of laptops (webbooks they were called). But as the technology wore out, I did not feel a pressing need to replace it. It provided a way to do things, not necessarily a better way—as far as I could tell. Besides, a computer lab full of students, oddly silent, staring at monitors creeped me out. I only did it when it made sense—typing final drafts, et. all. Continue reading

The Lazy Teacher’s Guide to Conferences

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth were early efficiency experts who did motion study work. The book about their family, Cheaper by the Dozen, explains the technique they used. “A lazy man … always makes the best use of his [time] because he is too indolent to waste motions. Whenever Dad started to do a new motion study project at a factory, he’d always begin by announcing he wanted to photograph the motions of the laziest man on the job” (Gilbreth and Carey, 94).

There are lots of tips and tricks for having effective parent-teacher conferences, from the NEA and KidsHealth to a collection of materials from Edutopia.

But how to be efficient? How to make the best use of your time?

Let me share some ideas. See if there are ones you can adapt to use with your students and your parents.

I have students write in a journal nearly every day. At the beginning of the school year I ask them to write short pieces about gifts or talents they have, ones they wish they had, and ones they are willing to work hard on this year to develop as skills. Often those responses have little or nothing to do with school. They have to do with sports teams or drama classes or art classes. Which is great — I learn a lot about my students’ interests. I have them type those pieces and print them. I hang them on the bulletin board in the hall.

(I also use the discussions we have to drive home the point that there are multiple kinds of gifts and talents, not just the ones that get kids placed into self-contained classrooms. And we talk about how everyone has to work hard to improve skills.)

About four weeks into the school year I narrow the focus. I ask students to write in their journals about what they do well at school. I ask them to think specifically about academics and behavior inside my classroom. The next day I ask them to write about what they need to improve. We’ve had a month of school. By now they should be able to pinpoint some areas of success and areas for growth.

The third day I ask them to write about how the adults in their life can help them—parents, grandparents, teachers, whatever grownups they rely on for help.

Once again, I have them type up what they’ve written, but this time I don’t have them print the pieces. They save them into the Kragen classroom folder into a subfolder called “journals.”

Meanwhile, I have a template for my conferences:

In the week before the conferences, I copy the template, one for each student. I add the student and parent names. Finally, I import the paragraphs each student wrote into their page.

As parents and students arrive for conferences I greet them. I ask the students to collect their most recent papers to go home. I give the parents the STAR test results and any other paperwork from the office.

Just that quickly we are ready to start the interview.

I sit at the computer, facing my student. Parents listen while I conduct an interview. (It’s really hard for them to be quiet and listen, but I ask them to wait to talk until their child is finished.)

First, I ask, “What are you good at? I see you wrote that you are good at math. Are you good at other things too?” As we talk, I add to what the student initially wrote. Sometimes I say, “May I add something? May I put down that you are extremely well-behaved?” or “You do really well in group work.” I’ve never had a student turn me down! It gives me the chance to reinforce the idea that behavior and teamwork are valued skills in the classroom.

Second, I ask for what they need to improve. Usually they have a really good handle on what they need to work on. My contributions are less likely to be additions and more likely to be suggested solutions.

Third, I throw them a curve ball. I ask, “What are your goals for school, for your life? What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to accomplish?”

Some children have vague ideas. “I want to get good grades.” I sometimes suggest, “I want to be well-educated?” They usually smile and say yes.

Others have definite plans. “I want to be a veterinarian.” “An entertainer.” “I want to work with robots.” “I want to be an author.” “I want to be an inventor.”

Those responses can lead to a brief but rich conversation.

1.

During the conference I Google the top ten colleges in the field and recommend to the student and parents that they contact the schools to find out what their requirements are. What would the child need to do in high school in order to be a good candidate for the program? Plan ahead!

(My dad did hiring for Lockheed. He told me once that they looked at candidates from only five schools in the US. I always thought that if it was your life-long dream to work at Lockheed it would really be awful to find that out after you graduated from school number six!)

BTW, also look into financial aid at each school. How will you start planning to pay for the college now?

As families take summer vacations, I recommend they visit any of the top schools they might pass. See if they can get a tour.

2.

Find mentors or interview subjects. Can you tour the robotics department at UW? Can you job shadow a scientist?

I won’t take the whole class on a field trip to visit such specific places, but I recommend parents take their own children on personal field trips.

Last summer a girl did field work with a biologist.

“The last question you ask is, who should I talk to next? Daisy chain connections. You may end up finding an area of interest that you don’t even know exists because it’s not something we talk about in a fourth or fifth grade classroom.”

3.

“What’s stopping you? If you want to be an author and write about your travels, start now. You’ve traveled across the country several times. How do you pack for long trips? How do you amuse yourself on long drives?”

“If you want to be an entertainer, start now. Read poems aloud—with GREAT enthusiasm—to the kindergarten classes.”

“Do you know about inventors who are young people?” I suggest the TED talks with Richard Turere and Boyan Slat. “And you should also watch Slingshot on Netflix because you will love it.”

Fourth, I ask each child how the adults can help. By now we may have answered that question within the other sections, but I always like to double-check that I haven’t missed anything.

About this point I turn to the parents and ask, “Is there anything you would like to add? Do you have any questions?”

Virtually every time, the answer is no. Parents tell me the conference feels very thorough.

What you need to notice is that the student has done about 85% of the work. I’ve done some copy and pasting, I’ve added comments into the document, but mostly I’ve had a great time talking to each of my students.

I print a copy of the page for the parents that they can take home immediately. They LOVE not having to take notes!

Of course, I have an electronic copy of everything. In the spring we can pull up the fall conferences and review how well the students are doing.

(In my next post I will share more ways I save time doing conferences!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to Change

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.

It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

― Albert Einstein

My world of teaching has been in a four-grade classroom for a number of years now – all subjects, all students, 5th-8th grades. This has lead to a process of thinking and teaching that includes all sorts of skills for differentiating instruction and juggling the inevitable pulling ahead and tugging back of student abilities.

But, last year I became painfully aware of that my “usual” operations were not working for this particular grouping of students. I could tell their needs were not being fully met and frankly, I was getting burned out trying to span the range of abilities. I needed a change in my thinking surrounding teaching and learning. I began to explore other approaches to teaching and took what I found to my students. I knew that this level of massive change would be akin to fixing a plane while flying it. I needed everyone on board, to be…on board!

We decided on an approach rooted in personalized learning and with the added feature of flexible seating. Gulp! Big changes!

What I have found most fascinating throughout this experience has been the way in which we have collectively experienced these changes. When I first told my students about flexible seating and how they would get to design the classroom, they were ecstatic! Big sheets of paper, markers and ideas were strewn about as the students set out to “design” our space. Unsurprisingly, every group featured beanbags. Yet, surprisingly, two of the groups had neatly arranged their beanbags into rows of five by four. Changing thinking is tricky…

The 2019-21Operating Budget request has been released by Superintendent Reykdal. In this budget, there is a $37 million increase in spending for professional development to occur over the next two years. This request seeks to allow for more comprehensive, on-going and content-relative opportunities to develop professionally. This emphasis on sustainable change is reflective of the latest research in what makes for effective professional development. Inherent in this quality of professional development is the process of change on behalf of educators.

The concept of moving from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side” is not new in the field of education. I had honestly thought I had mastered the guiding/coaching side of teaching. A personalized learning approach seemed a natural fit for my students and me. What I have come to discover is that this first six weeks of school has been a steep learning curve, backed with a lot of online professional development as I have reflected on the philosophy of personalized learning and how I am implementing it in my classroom. It turns out the “stage” is awful hard to step away from. Changing thinking is hard…

Education is in a transformative state across the nation and across our state as we work together to prepare our students for the futures before them. We must change our thinking to meet their changing futures. This level of transformative change in the classroom and in our teaching requires time, effort and resources. The operating budget set forth by Superintendent Reykdal allows for the time to implement such changes. The vast majority of educators I know are willing to put in the effort for change – that is if it is “real” and worthy. Now, it will be interesting to see how the availability of resources unfolds to meet the challenge of changing our thinking.

The Superintendent’s Budget: My Takeaways

I live in Vancouver and teach in Camas. You might have noticed that many schools in my region didn’t start on time this year.

While we eked out a last-minute settlement in Camas (full disclosure, I was on the bargaining team and am the immediate past-President of our association), our neighbors on all sides of us had to head to the picket line in order to settle their contract issues. At the time I’m writing this, there are still several classified unions representing secretaries, support staff, and other vital members of our educational teams who are working without a settled contract.

In the October 9th News Release from OSPI where Superintendent Reykdal shared his proposed state school funding priorities, he called out the struggles Southwest Washington faced under the revised funding model… which many people recognize as the reason that so many educators’ unions ended up picketing instead of starting the school year on time. That model is one I’ll get to in just a minute, though.

While Superintendent Reykdal identifies some important funding priorities, he also properly identifies the root of the problem in our present system: revenue. While the shift to the statewide property tax was intended to be some sort of great equalizer in funding, it did not have that effect. Besides the mythical 3.1% cap on salary increases (which was finally in early August dismissed by Reykdal in a memo to districts), limits on levy capacity became the stalling point at bargaining tables around Southwest Washington, and despite double-digit-percentage increases in total incoming revenue, skittish district leaders were spooked by the shakeup of the levy structure… so much so that at many tables, the initial counter-offers from district leadership constituted de facto pay cuts for educators, despite net gains in total revenue available for educator salary.

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Reading From the Ground Up

Last year my district bought a brand-new ELA curriculum for the elementary grades. It has short stories, poems, and even a handful of class sets of novels for teachers to share. There are also nonfiction materials integrated into the standard social studies and science topics of the different grade levels. For example, since fourth graders across America often study Native cultures, the fourth grade ELA curriculum has booklets about Native tribal history and a traditional Native story. In addition, there are booklets about money management, economics, and innovation. For science, the booklets include topics ranging from earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, skeletons, and porpoises. There is also a short biography of an early paleontologist.

Our school day is scheduled around lunch, recesses, specialist time, a set period for math, a set period for reading, plus additional WIN times for math and reading—WIN standing for “What I Need,” whether it’s reteaching, extra support, or enrichment. Last year our fifth grade teachers complained that they had 20 minutes a day to fit in all the district-adopted science and social studies curriculum. “But you are teaching science and social studies in your ELA curriculum, right?” was the response they got.

Well yes. To a degree.

This week I attended a full-day curriculum workshop on the Next Generation Science Standards. The presenter at one point blurted out that he wished that one subject would be dropped from the school day altogether—reading.

Publishers would love to have you believe that they have provided the tools needed for integration by teaching science and social studies lessons within the ELA curriculum. But that’s exactly backwards for how true integration works.

In fact, this backwards system of integration may explain why reading scores have flatlined since 1998!

According to The Atlantic, “Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia … writes about the science behind reading comprehension. Willingham explained that whether or not readers understand a text depends far more on how much background knowledge and vocabulary they have relating to the topic than on how much they’ve practiced comprehension skills.”

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute says improving reading and writing instruction in America’s schools requires teachers taking the lead. “Teachers should tackle the content-knowledge deficit. In particular, they should take the lead in adopting content-rich curricula and organizing their lessons around well-constructed ‘text sets’ that help students build on their prior knowledge and learn new words more quickly.”

For real integration, I maintain that you need to start with your content-rich subject. Start with science. Or start with social studies. Figure out the main topics you will teach over the course of the year and decide how you will organize them. I teach either science or social studies, one at a time, alternating them. I am starting this year with Explorers and then Mixtures and Solutions. Next will be Colonies followed by Space. Finally we will study the Revolution and Constitution, and we will end the year with Living Systems.

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Later Start Times and the Afternoon Drag

My district made a research-driven decision this year: We flip-flopped the start times of our elementary and secondary schools. Now, for the K-5 set, the bell rings at 8:00am (compared to last year’s 9:00am start) and for the secondary crew class starts around 8:45am (instead of an hour earlier).

Being a high school teacher and a morning person myself, I grudgingly accepted this shift to an almost 9:00am start (the day is practically half over by 9:00am!). I get the research all over the place about later start times for teens. The CDC has a page clearly stating their position, titled “Schools Start Too Early,” the New York Times Opinion page weighed in, and there is apparently a bunch of research supporting the premise that teens need to sleep in later.

Try as I might to find research to pile behind my confirmation bias, all I could seem to find were arguments that kids will “just stay up later” or that earlier start times leave room in the evenings for extracurriculars or jobs. Alas, no research at all that earlier start times can actually benefit kids.

So the problem I face now is the long stretch after lunch, and the reality that the time when kids are tired (from having just eaten) or wired (from having just eaten) is a greater proportion of my and my students’ day than it used to be. Granted, back in the olden days of last year when students had to rise so early for first period, there was the struggle of managing the bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed and the faces-on-the-desks-and-drooling in the same classroom just as I now face the dichotomy of postlunch tired and wired.

This new after-lunch slog just feels different, though. It’s probably me (reminder: morning person) but after-lunch-learning looks a whole lot different than before-lunch-learning.

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