Research is clear that we have a biological clock that varies from one person to another. Some of us are morning people. Our minds are alert as soon as we stir in the morning. We don’t even need coffee to get going. Our best time for concentration occurs in the morning, tapering in the afternoon and ends in the evening. The evenings are for puttering and doing tasks that don’t require a lot of concentration. There are night owls, the people who live for activity after dark. They come alive at 7:00 p.m. and will enjoy their best success in the evening. It’s no surprise they have difficulty waking up in the morning. They require coffee, several alarm clocks, and a career that is forgiving about when their day starts. They often choose careers that have a night shift option. Or drink a lot of coffee. If you are a morning person then you probably had a better shot at doing well in school. You were at school during the part of you day when you had the best concentration. What about those night owls? No matter how hard they tried, they were always at a disadvantage in morning classes. They would have to work twice as hard to accomplish the same thing.
These circadian rhythms vary throughout childhood. We expect babies and toddlers to be morning people. They are ready to eat and play as soon as they open their eyes. Teens, on the other hand, are night owls, at least temporarily. Just like the baby phase passes, so does the teen night owl phase. They are wired to stay up late and sleep in. In junior high schools all over America, children are yawning and trying to stay awake. Most junior high teachers know that this is a “holding” period in their education. It is impossible to make progress when you are asleep. It has often been said that junior high should be a well supervised summer camp. Fresh air, physical activity, and lots of sleep make for a good junior high experience. Instead we deal with cranky, tired, growing children who desperately need to sleep.
Some schools have acknowledged this problem and tried to delay the school day start time for this age group with success. Imagine how much success a student would have if they could sleep until they weren’t tired anymore?