I just read this article, which shares the wisdom that students perform better when having math class in the morning. The premise is that although many high schools have later start times than they used to because we all know teens need more sleep, it may not be serving them well. The data shows that students who have math in the morning outperform those who have it in the afternoon. The question this article really raises is, “What is the optimal time for learning?” That is an entirely different question.
Our education system is devised to suit a “work” model; children are at school when their parents are at work. If you think about yourself and the people you know, my suspicion is that some of them are “morning people” and others night owls. It’s a way that we categorize ourselves. I, myself, am a morning person. If I want to be sure to have the energy to complete a challenging or demanding task, I do it right away. This applies to everything from exercising to doing chores I don’t enjoy, such as grocery shopping. I can manage later in the day; I’m just not as energetic or fresh. When my son was in high school, he was once scheduled for an afternoon math class. I was appalled. I decided I was going to call the school and request a change in his schedule. He told me, in the way our children do, that he would be quite unhappy if I made that call. “I don’t wake up until noon. It will be better for me to have that class in the afternoon.” This was a learning opportunity for me…a chance to learn what I thought I knew. We are not all ready to learn at the same time in the same ways.
As I read about the difference in test scores, I was reminded once again that the time to learn cannot be determined by us. Teachers, schools or parents can’t decide when children learn. What we can do is provide an enticing, inviting, safe and creative environment that promotes a sense of wonder and engagement. We can offer experiences that engage children in things familiar and new. We can ask them what they want to learn, listen and create lessons that allow them to do just that…learn. They will learn when they are ready to learn. And when they are ready it won’t matter what time it is because for them it will simply be the time to learn.