What’s more important than a good night’s rest?
This past week, one of my students’ opening POD activities was to discuss the value of sleep, how much sleep they get, what gets in the way of sleep, and what is more important than sleep.
Most of their answers were predictable. Most said they get between 5 and 6 hours of sleep. They all said that sleep was important to their health. The number one contributing factor to their lack of sleep was the amount of homework. 4 hours or more was the consensus. They described an intense amount of reading, detail oriented projects, and extraordinary test prep.
What surprised me was the fervor with which students argued that homework is more important than sleep.
“I need to do homework to prepare for my future.”
“If I don’t do the homework, I’ll fail.”
“There’s not enough time for sleep.”
“It isn’t really the stuff I have to turn in that takes me so long, it is the work I need to do and the reading I need to get through in order to get an A on the test.”
“If I have to choose between homework and sleep – I choose success.”
“Social life, sports, good grades, sleep: you can only have two of these.”
The majority of these students have listened to the advice of their teachers to get involved and take advantage of opportunities. They participate in athletics, take challenging courses, perform with our choirs/bands/theatrical groups, and are loyal sports fans of their peers. They are the students every teacher wants in their classes – driven, respectful, and participatory. We’ve created a system that rewards these students with exhaustion.
As educators, we need to re-evaluate the amount of additional time students need to devote outside of class in order to be successful in our courses. How can we better respect our students’ time?
- Consider the value of the products you ask students to create. Does the product represent student learning or is it just re-presenting? (Just because a student is “creating” a product, doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing anything more than demonstrating their ability to “recall” information – which is at the lowest level of Bloom’s taxonomy.)
- Evaluate how much time is spent “sitting and getting” and how much time is practicing the material during class. If the practice is so critically important to the success of your students, why is it not being done with you present? Re-structure your daily lessons to incorporate more practice.
- Look at your assessment rubrics. How much weight is given to the “look” of the product? (Common justification here is that students also need to learn how to create a “professional” presentation. How often do they need to demonstrate this? In how many classes? Is the time required to practice this skill really worth the payoff?)
- Be mindful of the “hidden homework” you are inadvertently assigning. Studying, self-reteaching, and reading. What may take one student 20 minutes to read or review, may take another student an hour.
- Prioritize the critically important content and skills. Teach as much as you can! But, understand that there are limits to what we can realistically be assessed in a reliable way and how much a student can realistically learn in a meaningful way.
- Don’t be afraid to scrutinize the vertical alignment of your curricula. If there is too much information for students to learn in the time available during class, then we need to reconsider the scope/sequence of the classes that are meant to prepare students for the “capstones.”