In an age where everyone is looking for a quick fix, individuals forget that many times problems can be solved by focusing on simple solutions. I always compare education issues to my past experiences as a heavy equipment mechanic. For example, many times a 200 ton haul truck came to the shop with symptoms of low-power. Immediately shop supervision would change out a $100,000 engine and install the new engine only to find that the same problem existed.
I would then be sent to troubleshoot the problem only to find a broken electrical connection that was repaired using a two dollar and fifty cent connector. In education, I see the same scenario where students are struggling academically and engine swaps such as: changing curriculum, teacher instruction, RTI, AIMS, and Common Core are regular practice without first looking for a simple solution.
So, just as I would troubleshoot heavy equipment starting with the basic systems, I have started troubleshooting the performance of my students and I have discovered that many of my students are sleep deprived. They are sleep deprived due to the fact that both parents work out-of-town since the mine ceased production and parents must wake up at 4:30 A.M. to get ready for an hour to an hour and a half commute to their place of employment. As a result of the parents leaving home early in the morning, children are awakening before dawn and taken to grandma’s house to resume sleeping and to be cared for.
Po Bronson writes in his book, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children
“Around the world children get an hour less sleep than they did thirty years ago. The cost: IQ points, emotional well-being, ADHD, and obesity.
One of the symptoms that I have observed in my sleep deprived students is the inability to retain information. Bronson states, “this is why I goods night sleep is so important for long-term learning of vocabulary words, timetables, historical dates and other factual minutiae.”
The research in Bronson’s book states that for every 15 minutes of extra sleep test scores increased by 10 points. However, parents and students must realize that adjusting to a different sleep pattern; an hour extra preferably, is not for one night only it should be maintained throughout the students’ school years.
What do you have to lose? Not sleep.