What if each teacher knew 'the actual length' of each students 'typical school day' over two weeks?
Have students track results for two weeks and then share in each class with each teacher. It'll take time... but imagine the conversations and awareness it can conjure. Sharing with advisors or in advisory helps too... but often the results there are compartmentalized in that one arena.
Here's the guideline for students to track (and the one I used in my survey):
Two week grid: Monday - Sunday
Each day track:
- Wakeup time
- breakfast (yes or no, where?, time if applicable)
- travel time to school
- school day (hours)
- extra-curricular (if applicable. Start time, duration)
- travel time from school / extra-curricular
- dinner (where, when, with who, how long)
- work time (job, if applicable)
- homework time
- bed time
Is 'the total school day' building stress? Fatigue? Promoting bad sleep habits? Are excessive hours piling up over the long haul? How is it effecting families? How is it effecting / shaping personal habits?
Schools often speak of balance, community services, family life and making connections... but how is that lining up with demands?
Here's what I discovered about 'the length of the school day' from the pool of people I surveyed.
Refresher from the last post... I interviewed 60 people from three different schools to look into a number of topics.
20 students in grades 9-12
20 adults who work in 9-12 education
20 parents of children in 9-12 education
The 'typical day'
In all cases, the typical 'first bell to last bell' school day, so to speak, lands at roughly 7 hours. Not bad. But... when you add up all the incidentals... like morning time, travel, extracurricular / work time and homework that's where things get interesting.
Of the 20 students surveyed wake up times are as follows:
Before 630am: 20
Before 6am: 14
Before 530am: 11
Before 5am: 7
Before 430am: 4*
*6 of the 20 students reported having morning practices or work before school that required them to get up as early earlier than 430am.
With the typical school day starting at 8am, adding in the morning hours of prep, travel, or extra-curricular time is key. In this case... 7 hours in school is closer already to a nine hour day, again, on average.
PracticesPractice time averaged 1.5 hours roughly half the participants. The other half... 2 hours. All students reported having to get ready before practice so tack on a solid 15 minutes or more minutes to those totals. Add in travel time too, changing before and after and again... more than meets the eye. With travel included we're looking at roughly
With practices and incidentals we're looking at 12-13... average.
Add in A student I spoke with said this, and quite eloquently.
"After I finish practice I typically have about two or three hours of homework. Last night I finished everything at 11(pm). I'm not sure what time it was exactly when I went to bed. Probably 1130(pm) I guess. I have to get up every morning at 515am."
The student went on to add something interesting,
"I hardly ever see my parents or my brother or sister when we're in the house. If I'm home I'm pretty much in my room doing homework."
One other student added...
"When I come home from practice I'm dead! We had an hour in the weight room and then two hours of practice after that. We have a new coach and he's pushing us really hard. Last night I had about three hours of homework and I started at about 730(pm). My dad saved dinner for me and I ate in my room while I did homework. I was totally struggling to stay awake by that point and studying for an AP quiz really isn't that easy. I studied with two other teammates online and we did a good job knocking it out. By the time I got to my other homework I was going slower. 3 hours of homework turned into four and a half. That's pretty typical. It's not easy to crank out three hours of work when you start at 7 or 8 (pm). It's also not like this only happens once in awhile. I do this pretty much every night. By the time I get to sleep it's about midnight and I have to get up at 545am. Honestly I can't wait for high school to be over. I hate my schedule."
Doubling up on practice?
A growing number of students reported having full or 'optional' practice on Sunday. That's a new one for me. In 23 years of coaching high school baseball I never had a practice on Sunday.
Some athletes discussed something even more dangerous. With pre-season limits placed on coaches, some were creating 'Captain's practices.' Captains, often high school juniors or seniors, were given detailed or loose instructions to run an extra optional session "for conditioning."
Just think about that for a minute. An extra practice, run by students, that focuses on conditioning? After a full practice? Dangerous stuff.
The drift here is important to note. A fascinating study could take place here on how these trends have evolved over the last 10 years.
Game day time on the overall clock
When you factor in extracurricular sports, parents reported that the typical home game consumes roughly four hours of time. Away games consume five or more hours depending on the distance. The student data actually comes in longer with 50% of away games consuming 5-6 hours of time and in a three cases 6 and as much as 10 hours for longer trips.
How it all adds up
Over a two week period I asked students to track how many hours a day all school activities consumed to include: travel to and from school and school related events, the school day itself, extra-curricular activity time, and homework. The results are pretty stunning.
Of the 20 students surveyed:
7 of 20 did not participate in extra-curricular activities. The average 'school day' over a two-week period for these students was 13-14 hours.
13 participated in extracurricular activities. The average school day for these students was 15 hours long. 11 of these 13 students reported that they had three or more days per week over 15 hours long.
Eleven. That's a lot to tow.
Again, add in time for dinner, family, work, or whatever else and it’s clear that teenagers struggle to find balance. And struggling to find sleep too.
So... a few questions to bring forward
- Does your school have a homework policy or homework guidelines? What does an average homework load look like for students? Are there exceptions built in for 'extreme student days' (games, theater productions, trips, etc)? Remember, kids can't always plan what they have for work on a given day or in advance unless they are given the opportunity and taught how to do so.
- How many hours in the day are sports or extra-curricular programs demanding? If your kids are being asked to do multiple practices per day... I'd start asking questions.
- Many kids want to or 'have to' work. How many kids are working after school at your school? How many hours? Morning (before school) or after school... or both? How does that add into their school 'day?'
- How do all the hours added up effect student performance? Mental attitude? health? Have a discussion with students on an individual level as I've done (many times). The results might shock you.
One thing is for certain after my research. We don't discuss this enough in schools or with students. We often preach about 'balance' but rarely do we look at the real picture.
As we seek to build more caring, thoughtful, healthy, compassionate and connected citizens... maybe we should.
Here's one I struggled to write in here but can't let go.
One pool of educators I spoke with in the survey stated kids just need to plan better. When I asked this pool if kids had the opportunity to plan, if discussions were being had about days with excessing demands... As a result of the conversation 11 out of 20 educators said they would be giving this some thought and look at restructuring due dates for some students with tough time demands.
PLPs (Personal Learning Plans) in Vermont can add some insight to these scenarios. They can. They should go that deep. If we connect with more kids on a personal level we'll have a better understanding what's being asked of them and how 'school' is actually looking / working or not working in their lives. From there we can help kids make adjustments to their approach and also to 'school' itself.
Doing more faster' isn't scaleable. Brushing all this 15+ hour day business off as 'good prep for life' isn't either. There's a deeper discussion we can have.