What teachers want from parents

If teachers could get parents to do one thing what would it be? Dan Willingham has the answer: Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep before school. An estimated 25 percent of adolescents don’t get enough sleep.

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Comments

  1. Wow, that wouldn’t even be on my top 5. Not that I have a lot of expectations for parents–I find it more effective to teach as if I can expect nothing from them.

  2. It’s known and even mentioned in the article that biology pushes adolescents to be up at night and the massive pressures of society push it further, but the teachers want parents to change things.  Nothing about the proven solution of moving school start times back.

    I guess teachers really are drawn from the ranks of low-achievers.

  3. Mark Roulo says:

    …but the teachers want parents to change things. Nothing about the proven solution of moving school start times back.

    I guess teachers really are drawn from the ranks of low-achievers.

    Or, alternately, the teachers *DON’T* set school-wide policy on things like start times, but would still like the kids to learn. If one assumes that the administration isn’t going to change the start time, then this is a reasonable request.

    -Mark Roulo

  4. cynical, teachers don’t have any input or control over what time school starts.

    cal, i agree with you. i can think of at least 10 other things i’d like parents to do before i’d mention making sure their child went to bed earlier. things like: check your child’s bookbag every night — even if they say they don’t have work to do. or, do some laundry so your child has a clean shirt to wear — they’ve been wearing this one for two weeks. maybe, don’t wait until the day before grades are due to ask for all the make up work for your child — which i probably already gave them twice now. how about this: don’t hide your weed in your child’s pant pocket ad then send them to school. (true story. . . .well, they’re all true.)

  5. oh. . .i wasn’t trying to repeat mark. . .i guess i started typing my reply before he posted his but finished after him.

  6. Mark Roulo says:

    …but the teachers want parents to change things. Nothing about the proven solution of moving school start times back.

    I guess teachers really are drawn from the ranks of low-achievers.

    Or, a second possibility, is that the teachers answered the question they were asked. From the article, Dan “asked a dozen teachers this question: ‘If you could magically make parents do ONE thing this coming school year to support their child, what would it be?'”. If the teachers responded that the one thing the parents could do to support their child was to move school start times back, we might be suggesting that they were either not answering the question, or ducking it.

    -Mark Roulo

  7. Cynical –
    Teenagers might show a slight tendency to be more nocturnal than adults and younger children, but as with just about every other biological characteristic, it is in no way solely in control of the teen’s behavior.
    Give them a bedtime such that they get 8 hours of sleep, plain and simple.

  8. Teenagers might show a slight tendency to be more nocturnal than adults and younger children, but as with just about every other biological characteristic, it is in no way solely in control of the teen’s behavior.

    This is complete nonsense. Putting teens to bed at 9 will not guarantee they get enough sleep.

    For most kids, I have no real expectations or requests of the parents. For some kids, I would ask of the parents simply that they be humiliated by their child’s behavior.

  9. In my world, Dan’s post is a no-brainer. Its probably different in elementary or middle school, or in poor system where there aren’t any jobs. But when most of your students work 30 to 40 hours a week, its the key. For instance, my school is at the very bottom of the state but in junior and senior classes I don’t need to worry about discipline but exhaustion is huge. I put Lombardi quote on the board “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” We break down exactly how much money they take home, and how much in potential scholarship money the lose. But too many support their family. Too many support their cell phone or car or instant gratification, too many have the craving to text at midnight when they get home from work.

    And too many work too much because they crave the respect and dignity that they get at work but not at school.

  10. The sample size was very small (12 teachers) and we have no idea how Dr. Willingham selected them. If I had to hazard a guess, they were probably teachers at his kid’s school. And presumably a school enrolling the children of college professors face a very different set of concerns than schools enrolling primarily disadvantaged kids.

  11. Well, sleep cuts across both demographics — just for different reasons. I’m guessing I might mention this a couple weeks into the new year when my teens are all still groggy from coming to school right about when they’ve been going to bed all summer. I’m not sure what the #1 thing I’d want from parents is. I guess the true best interests of their child at heart. It’s shocking how often that just isn’t the case.

  12. Pushing back high school start times is a no-cost, research-based, eminently sensible, everyone-wins policy. It’s a no-brainer.

    And that is why it will never be implemented.

  13. cynical, teachers don’t have any input or control over what time school starts.

    How much control do parents have over adolescent biology?  The teachers are complete masters of their schedules by comparison.

    I was one of those adolescents.  I could not sleep when everyone said I “should”.  Then I was groggy and miserable all day, every day.  In a sane world today’s standard school schedules would be prosecuted as child abuse.

  14. Ok… back to this whole “teens can’t sleep before midnight” issue….

    Given proper sleep hygiene, a teenager can get a full 8 hours of sleep prior to getting up at 6 AM the next morning to get ready for school. I’ve talked to my students who have had sleep issues in school… and they all, like some of you, state that they just cannot get to sleep before midnight. Yet, in the same discussion, when I ask them what they do prior to going to sleep, they all state that they are watching TV, on their cell phones, or on Facebook and the like. They drink coffee and other highly caffeinated beverages. They are out running with friends. Pretty much these are all issues with parenting, not biology.

    Humans are rarely at the mercy of their own biology. Our bodies and its organ systems are amazingly plastic and can conform to just about any situation given some sense of regularity. Part of the problem with teenage sleep patterns nowadays is the lack of regularity… in a given week, one student might go to sleep at 7PM, 11PM, 1AM, 9PM, 12AM. This wrecks havoc on their circadian rhythms and yes, they are going to have problems sleeping.

    What to do? First, set a regular bedtime and enforce it on the weekends also. Two, set a curfew so that they are in the house relaxing prior to their bedtime. Three, slap their hands if they even have a caffeinated beverage in their hands after dinner. Finally, make sure that they won’t have any electronic distractions leading up to their bedtime and while they sleep. Yes, this requires effort on the part of parents. Boohoo.

    There are numerous examples of this working in our culture’s history and present. Farms, for one. Early to bed, early to rise. The early bird gets the worm. Somehow I doubt Farmer Jed let his sons sleep in until 9 or 10 AM when there were crops to be planted. The military does a wonderful job enforcing a bedtime. Those 18 year olds in the military do more before breakfast than any high school senior does before lunch, maybe even dinner. I don’t think the sergeants or chiefs have to worry about nap times for their enlistees because they woke up at 4 or 5 AM. It’s not like the high school diploma all of a sudden resets their internal clocks and graduates are magically able to wake up early.

    As always, there are going to be some individuals who have some other issue preventing them from adjusting to this schedule, but if stuck to this will keep 95-99% of students awake and aware in school.

    While I would love it if parents went over homework with their children and all, I NEED them to actually take care of the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy. I have seen too many capable students fall apart because they are hungry, tired, abused, or injured.

  15. I’m with SuperSub on the sleep issue. My younger kids attended a high school that praised itself to the skies for its 8:30 start time, but said nothing about its zero-hour classes prior to the official start and which were very popular (especially with the best students). The academically uninterested will use any excuse for their lack of success and the academically motivated will do whatever is needed to succeed. There are also many athletes who commonly practice before school; swimmers, skaters and hockey players have well-earned reputations for O-dark-thirty starts. I used to see swimmers at my local bagel place; they swam from 4:30-6:30 AM and most were excellent students.

    I’d like to see parents BE parents; teach their kids appropriate behaviors (including but not limited to self-control, good manners and work ethic), feed them decently and set and enforce reasonable household rules.

  16. Lordie, why is everyone here so determined to conflate apples and oranges?

    Look, there is NO doubt that moving the school day later improves high school performance. Idiocy about how gosh, kids could go to sleep earlier if they just have better parents or more desire is just that–idiocy. This evidence is completely indisputable and has been around for ten years or more. Sub and Mom, you’re on the idiot bench.

    However, the Willingham survey had nothing to do with late start times, and everything to do with one of two things: a) either well-to-do parents who let their kids stay up late doing too much or b) poor parents who aren’t getting their kids to bed on time–which usually refers to elementary or middle school. Of course, I now realize that there was no mention of high school vs. middle school in Joanne’s post, and you all brought that to the table on your own.

    Kids being *sleepy* is simply not a big issue for teachers, in my experience. That is quite different from whether or not high schools should start later.

  17. j.d.salinger says:

    How’s the hunt going for a new teaching job, Michelle?

  18. I’m limiting myself to experience in an inner city high school, and its somewhat different even with our 9th graders.

    “Humans are rarely at the mercy of their own biology.”

    Firstly, I question that. Sleep deprivation is not merciful.

    But in large we are at the mercy of our history. As William Julius Wilson says regarding race, we are all jockeying for the position that “I’m innocent.” Hence the education blame game.

    We’ve had 300+ years of slavery and Jim Crow. For our Hispanic students, 400 years of colonialism made its mark. We had Supply Side economics and Bush II that accelerated deindustrialization. Real wages for the working poor have declined since the Energy Crisis of 1973. As was shown by the movie Chinatown, The Wire, and the books on Robert Moses, systems of interlocking trusts guided growth and jobs away from the urban core to the suburbs and exurbs. We’ve had an overnight digital revolution, at a time when the family has been breaking making it even more difficult to teach kids how to handle the media. And Future Shock has a power of its own, as was shown by the invention of the electric lightbulb.

    Given all of the above, should we be shocked that it is difficult to get every kid to school at the traditional time? For kids who prefer early starts, great, give them that option. For kids who need a later time, give them that option. Let’s stop wasting energy with the blame game. If this problem was the worst legacy of our worst legacies, then we’d danged near have Nirvanna.

  19. Richard Aubrey says:

    john thompson.
    Care to explain why four hundred years of colonialism makes it tough for Hispanic kids to get enough sleep? Most of them are under eightteen, much less four hundred.
    Sounds like blame shifting.
    If the jobs are moving to the ‘burbs, then the effect of jobs moviing ought to be benign in the ‘burbs and the kids should be sleeping like warm puppies.
    Just the usal litany, hauled in for a unique purpose. Never seen it like this before.
    BTW, deindustrialization is partly due to the laxer labor and envirnomental standards in other burgeoning economies such as India’s. Don’t know that Bush II, or any republican worked for that.

  20. Cal-
    Considering that this whole discussion is based upon the statement “What teachers want from parents,” stating that parents should, oh gosh, enforce a bedtime is actually on topic and appropriate.

    As for the whole concept of delayed school start that you propose, its a band-aid. I’ve actually worked in such a school and guess what – students began staying up until 2 or 3 AM instead of midnight. The online world doesn’t shut down.

    As for the only problem with sleep deprivation being mere sleepiness, sleep deprivation affects the entire body and the student’s behavior. The reason that moving the school day back initially works is that students get more sleep and are able to better function…until some begin to push their bedtimes further back.

    The whole point I have been trying to make is this. No matter what changes schools make and whatever gains (or recovery) that might be made with them, unless structure is provided at home, teenagers will continue to push their limits because, quite frankly, the majority of them are clueless as to what their priorities should be.

    This whole thread is nothing more than a fantasy… a discussion of what teachers would do if they had the power to actually affect students’ home lives. If I’m gonna sit on the bench of idiocy, I’m gonna lay back, grab a pina colada, and watch others take this discussion a heck of a lot more seriously than they should.

  21. Richard,

    Had it not been for the rape of Latin America by Spain, and if we hadn’t stolen most of Mexico, do you think that we would have nearly as many Hispanics working such long hours for low wages?

    By the way, due to a freak ice storm every roof in our part of town is being replaced. If you’d like to ask that question directly to some immigrants working in 130 degree heat, get a roofer’s job down here. I bet you could learn a lot about oppression.

  22. Also, 10% of our state’s jobs disappeared in just a few months in 1983, and 6% disappeared just as quickly in 1991. The prime reason was the three sets of tax breaks for closing down factories that were still profitable. Had Voo Doo economics not accelerated deindustrialization, families would have had more time to adjust. I saw it firsthand.

    Have you ever been in an inner city classroom when a recession hit? There is no lag time. Kids immediately bring the extra suffering to class.

  23. Cynical said:

    It’s known and even mentioned in the article that biology pushes adolescents to be up at night and the massive pressures of society push it further, but the teachers want parents to change things. Nothing about the proven solution of moving school start times back.

    I guess teachers really are drawn from the ranks of low-achievers.

    Are you that ignorant to believe teachers have any input into scheduling times?

    You should just keep quiet when you don’t know what you’re talking about. A wise man once said, “It’s better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”

  24. ” Somehow I doubt Farmer Jed let his sons sleep in until 9 or 10 AM when there were crops to be planted. ”

    As a teenager, I had three broadcast channels to watch, no computer, no cell phone, little access to cafienated beveraged AND I lived on a farm. Although I managed to drag myself to class, I was exhausted and sleep deprived…I couldn’t get to sleep earlier. I remember being awake in the house when everyone else was asleep.

    As an adult, I can barely managed to stay up past 10 pm and am up before dawn.

  25. Are you that ignorant to believe teachers have any input into scheduling times?

    Are you so ignorant as to believe that parents or teens can choose their biology?  What’s written in policy, and what’s written in DNA?

    You should just keep quiet when you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    I love irony.  It makes such a wonderful clanging sound when it ricochets off the skulls of the oblivious.

  26. I think parents and teachers should expect respect and courtesy from each other.