As the American system of public education has grown and evolved, it has developed some monstrous problems. Violence in inner city schools, unionized teachers who can’t be fired, falling test scores, funding cuts from the states, bullying in the hallways and in cyberspace, aging buildings that need constant renovation or replacement - the list of problems is overwhelming.
I suggest that we make one small fix in all the madness. Have the littlest kids start school at the earliest hour of the day, and let the big kids have the latest start time. In other words, flip the schedule. As the high school nurse explained to a group of parents, “Teenagers don’t even feel sleepy until 11 PM or even midnight – the melatonin in their brains just doesn’t start flowing until then. They literally cannot fall asleep early. And because they’re exhausted when they get to school, many of them fall asleep during class.” Ian can attest to this, he was apparently a big desk sleeper in his day.
Little kids, on the other hand, go to bed early and wake up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, at sunrise. They are the perfect candidates to catch the dawn bus, but this doesn’t happen – because it’s still dark at that hour, and therefore too dangerous for the little kids. Or so it’s been explained to me.
However, as someone who must wake up two teenagers on alternate weekday mornings, I can attest that this process is anything but fun.
ME: It’s 6:30, guys. First warning. The good news is, it’s Friday!
ME: OK, it’s 6:45. You have to get up NOW.
ME: Don’t make me come up here again.
ME (clomping as loudly and threateningly up uncarpeted stairs as possible in slippers): I’m not kidding, now it’s 7 AM. GET UP AND GET DRESSED, I WANT TO HEAR YOUR FEET ON THE FLOOR.
Hugh gets up first, showers, and comes downstairs to eat cereal and watch sports recaps from the night before, pre-empting my choice of Matt and Meredith, unless I have a strong objection.
Malcolm makes us sweat the most, cutting it as close as possible. Though he must leave the house at 7:25 to catch the bus, he often doesn’t appear downstairs until 7:22. And despite our constant nagging, he almost never packs his backpack the night before, so there’s that frenzied task to accomplish, in addition to feeding him something and finding shoes and hoodie.
In theory, Hugh is supposed to walk to school. His bus comes at 6:50, and that is just crazy early for a school day that begins at 7:35. When the weather is nice, Hugh will indeed walk to school quite cheerfully, especially if it is Chris’s morning to supervise.
This week, on Monday, Wednesday and today, Hugh informed me that he needed a ride to school. I have taken to reponding sarcastically, “Why am I not surprised? It’s my morning to get up with you!”
Today he responded that Dad is better at waking him up. I suggested that he was adding insult to injury, and perhaps he just fears Dad’s irritation more than he fears mine. And then I drove him to school, and he thanked me and apologized – because he is Hugh, and his EQ is extremely high.
Our hope is that Hugh will win a parking space in the school senior lottery, and drive himself and his little freshman brother to school every single day next year. We have a dream.