Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Night Owls

Over the years as a middle school teacher, I've had my share of sleepy kids in class. It's not that unusual, especially among the boys, considering the amount of growth these kids go through when they hit puberty.

Sometimes it really impacts their grades and you have to get a parent involved. Usually we've discovered that our little Sleepy Heads have a television in their rooms and are staying up all night watching (usually inappropriate and very adult) television while the parents are blissfully snoozing away. Usually all it takes is the removal of the television from the room, and we see a much more alert and chipper kid in class. In some other cases, the problem is a computer in the room and the kid is up all night chatting or playing video games on line - sort of like Rip Van Winkle. Now, kids with computers in their rooms is another post for another day (can we say "online predators" anyone?), but it's still an issue, and, once again, once the parents figure out what's going on and remove the problem, we see a much better rested kid in class.

So, this brings me to a discussion that I had with my Fourth Period today. This is one of my smallest classes, and although there are quite a few of them that are, shall we say, a bit difficult in the personality department, they do have their moments.

Drama Boy, out of the blue, asked me if I'd every talked to a friend on the phone at night when I was a kid.

"Drama Boy, you need to remember that we didn't have our own phones back in the dark ages when I was a kid. We had phones attached to walls in the kitchen and everyone heard our conversations and there was no way I was allowed to use the phone after 8:00 pm."

This brought a chorus of "ohhhhhs" from the kids. They can't believe how tough life was for us in the old days.

"Oh yeah," he said, as if remembering that, yeah, teachers are old. "Well, I was texting this girl this morning around three, and..."

"Wait a minute," I interrupted him. "Three in the morning?"

"Yeah, three in the morning," he continued.

"You were on the phone texting a girl at three in the morning this morning?" I asked incredulously. "Seriously?"

"Yeah, and well my Dad caught me and busted me out on it," he said.

"Well, thank goodness," I responded. "I hope he took your phone away as well."

"Well, no, he didn't"


Of course the entire class is listening to this conversation and start putting in their two cents' worth.

"My mom took my phone away after my last progress report when my grades tanked and she found out I was up texting 'til two in the morning," said one of my girls.

"Yeah, I usually stay up texting at least until midnight," said another.

I was floored. I was hoping that Rip Van Winkle and Drama Boy were the exceptions to the rule, but the more I talked with this bunch, the more I found out that they aren't getting any sleep! They're too busy playing video games and texting all night long! Here they are, in the throes of puberty, when they need, oh, eight to ten hours of sleep a day and they're getting maybe, four? If they're lucky!

A few of the kids in this class admitted that they had set bedtimes and were usually in bed by eight or so, which is a good thing since we start school rather early (at 7:30). Interestingly enough, any guess on which group has the best grades?

Yeah, you got it, the ones getting to bed earlier are more successful academically.

So my big question is...where are the parents? Asleep? Do they not check the bills to see that their darling cherub is up at all hours of the night and day texting away? What's so hard with taking that phone away over night and giving it back in the morning?

There are times I just want to beat my head against a wall.


The Bus Driver said...

the parents are blissfully unaware of their cherubs doings at night.

they're too busy doing partying of their own. after all.. they;re only in their mid 20's cuz after all they had cherub at 13.

ChiTown Girl said...

No, you should beat their (the parents') heads against a wall, NOT yours! ;-)

I get the same thing with my babies. They're FIVE, for Pete's sake!! How do they NOT have a bedtime?!

The Vegas Art Guy said...

I get it in HS as well. My daughter does not take her phone to bed. She knows better.

R2P2 said...

I've thought similar things w/ my high schoolers. I'm getting tired of saying "Where are the parents?" It's become my teaching mantra.

Theresa Milstein said...

Your post (sadly) doesn't surprise me.

Ever watch Supernanny? Turns out there are a lot of preschoolers with TVs in their room, and guess what - they have sleep problems. I know, shocking!

When did parents give up parenting?

I know a twelve-year-old who is up well past midnight posting on Facebook.

When I was a fifth-grade assistant, students would talk about "South Park" (inappropriate for their age) and watching TV until well after midnight.

Let's add sleep deprivation to the list of what teachers are up against.

Peach Pod said...

As a parent and teacher, none of this surprises me. My child often stays up until 2 or 3 when he is visiting his dad. Then he comes home to my reality and has to adjust. I take his phone at night so that he doesn't text. One night he was on his xBox past bedtime and made the mistake of saying he would get off when he was done with his game. I simply walked to the modem and unplugged it. We as parents have the power if we are willing to use it.

Sarah said...

I don't get it! And I have a nephew in middle school who stays up to all hours of the night playing his xbox. He's even skipped school because he's too tired to get up in the morning. His mom is a nurse and goes to bed. My husband and I don't understand why she won't take the game to bed too. It makes no sense. I've quit buying him anything for the xbox for his birthday or Christmas. Not that it will help, but I'm making a stand!

http://dkzody.wordpress.com said...

The parents are overwhelmed because they are too young, too overworked, and tired of arguing. When the kids get to high school, the parents heave a sigh of relief that they don't have to be responsible any more. I've heard this from parents. They expect their kids to manage on their own.

Liz Ditz said...

Back when my daughter Jumper Girl entered her teens, she became a bit surly and snarky. Then one day we went to a sleep-away competition, staying in a rather down-scale motel. The first two days, she didn’t have to appear at the competition site until after noon, so I decided to let her sleep until she awoke naturally.

The room she was sleeping in had blackout curtains, no alarm clock with a lighted face, and faced north. She’s also forgotten to bring her cell-phone charger so it was hors de combat as well.

The first night she slept 13 hours and awoke her old, bubbly positive self. The second night she slept 14 hours and again, the daughter v.1.0 appeared!

Now, I had taken William Dement’s sleep course in college and had read follow-up interviews, so I was primed for the face-palm.

It wasn’t adolescence that was making my girl grumpy, it was sleep deprivation! She had several sources of light in her bedroom (a brightly-lit alarm clock, the various electronics, plus of course her cell phone). And as it turned out, she was getting text messages on her phone throughout the night.

So when we returned home, I put black-out shades on her windows (which faced south-east), put all the electronics on a kill-switch, and made a rule she had to hand me her cell-phone at bed-time. I put some red film over her way-bright alarm clock face. It was still legible but only emitted about 30% of the light.

I also made a deal with her that we’d try out a 9-hour sleep schedule for a week to see if her mood etc. improved. It cut into her homework time but I emailed each of her teachers to tell them about our experiment.

Her science teacher was so intrigued by this that she worked a similar experiment into the curriculum, and later started teaching sleep hygiene as a regular part of the strand on the 8th grade human biology in the science curriculum.

Here’s a great article by Dement for Stanford undergraduates


Margaret English said...

I have always found that The Sleepy Kids' perents are disinterested and disengaged, leaving them alone to stay up as long as they want watching who-knows-what on tv and playing on the computer. A simplistic, generic reason but probably not too far from the truth. Unfortunately.