It’s no surprise to us here at Grand River Academy that teens who aren’t getting enough sleep at night tend to face struggles in school and in controlling their emotions. Truthfully, we all tend to be crabby if we aren’t getting enough sleep right? A recent article in NPR, “Teen Night Owls Struggle to Learn and Control Emotions at School,” highlights this problem and focuses on a recent study that appeared in the journal Pediatrics.
As the article explains "The researchers wanted to know more about the associations between the amount of sleep students get, how sleepy they are in the daytime and a brain function known as self-regulation — the ability to control emotions, cognitive functions and behavior.” The findings are not surprising. Those who are more awake at night have “the hardest time with self-regulation” and have “more memory problems, are more impulsive, and get irritated and frustrated more easily.” (NPR.org)
Here at Grand River Academy, we recognize this and understand the important role sleep plays in a teen’s development and overall wellness. While we haven’t incorporated nap time into the daily schedule, we have a structured environment that can help students stay active and engaged during the day, but also gives them time to relax and get plenty of sleep after lights (and wifi) are out at 10:30pm.
What’s a typical weeknight look like at GRA?
After classes end, students have one hour of downtime before heading to afternoon activities, in which every student must participate. Then they can relax, enjoy dinner with their friends and teachers, and spend some free time socializing time prior to evening study hall in the dorm or student center. Study hall lasts for one and one half hours, ending at 9:45 PM. After that, they can hang out with their friends, head over to the Student Center to play some games or have a snack before heading back to their dorms to get ready for bed before lights out. There are also some random activities to liven things up during this time as well – maybe an on-campus activity like dodgeball, charades in the dormitory common room, or even a quick grocery store trip.
What’s a rotating block schedule?
Of course, some students need more sleep than others, and whether they get 8 or 12 hours of sleep, some will never be a “morning person.” During the school day GRA has a rotating block schedule. This means that a student’s first class of the day rotates. Monday he might have Algebra II at 8:10 AM, Tuesday he could have English 10, and Wednesday he could have World History or Photography. The rotating schedule allows for students to benefit from seeing teachers when they are most alert. Additionally, our block schedule allows students to have extended periods of time with their teachers – there are study halls built right into the classroom time. This adds extra instructional time, group field trips, and study halls while the teachers are present. We have alleviated the old “I don’t understand my homework” excuse.
While all of us here at Grand River Academy work our hardest to provide the best opportunity for our young men, it’s important that they take care of themselves while learning inside and outside of the classroom. This includes realizing the importance of sleep and how getting a good night’s sleep can set them up for success during the day.