You probably hear your alarm in the morning and think to yourself, “Should I really go to school today?”, “Will I be able to stay awake during this 8 hour school day?” “Will I be able to test my mental capacity and ignore any and all studies that show high school students need 8-10 hours of sleep?” How will I maintain a respectable GPA and participate in extracurriculars?” While some are more worrisome than others, a lot of students at North High School rely on an unhealthy amount of caffeine to “keep them steady” throughout the day, and this is an issue.
Time and again the argument for later school times has been argued for by students, parents, and even some teachers. Although some community members make feasible arguments, there seems to be no hope to push to a later time, for our own Eau Claire school district that is. This begs the question, does the problem lie within school start times or individual teaching style? To tell us his side of this engagement crisis, I sat down wtih Justin Denesen, a senior at North, and former caffeine user.
Question 1: “Hello, Justin, would you tell us a story of a time at school you felt caffeine improved your attentiveness in the classroom?”
“Well, I actually had a very profound experience with Bang, which is a caffeine – highly caffeinated energy drink. I was introduced to it by a couple friends, and after having my first sip of Black Cherry Vanilla Bang, I became somewhat obsessed, and tried to try all of the flavors. This led to me drinking a lot of caffeine, in very short spans of time. There was one day, where I had three Bangs. I had one in the morning, and then two consecutively – one Bang in each hand. One Bang has enough caffeine to – well, one Bang is comparable to about two cups of coffee. So, after ingesting 600mg of caffeine within 4 hours – I was experiencing negative effects for about 12 hours afterwards. I felt as though I was both awake and dreaming, and my brain just felt kind of fogged up for actually about 2 days afterwards. It was kind of scary so I quit shortly thereafter. My learning? Well, in the beginning, before I really took it too far,. I think it positively helped. It actually made me feel a lot more creative, and in a way, really opened up my id. If that makes any sense…”
“…I feel as though, the biggest problem in the classroom. The primary reason why students aren’t engaged, is rigidity. There isn’t much room for creativity, students aren’t allowed to express themselves. It’s often just “you do this, and this is how you do it”. They give you a certain rubric, and if you don’t follow the rubric to a tee, you get a poor grade. That is not a proper learning experience for the student. For the most part, it’s just rehashing the same thing over and over again with a slightly different twist, across all classes, across most American schools. It’s depressing, really. Students are being deprived of a proper education.”
Question 2: “What do you think can be done about the current state of teachers attempts to keep students engaged in the classroom?”
“The fault, in my eyes, is on the administrators behalf, as opposed to the students. We mustn’t focus on the intake of caffeine amongst students when it comes to the issue of attentiveness. How a student – or at least a student with intent to learn – absorbs information, depends on the charisma of the instructor. The status quo, discourages teachers from having the charisma aforementioned, which is why I believe both students and teachers should rally against it, collectively.”
Question 3: “Was there ever a time you felt your friends were affected by a lack of motivation to stay engaged in the classroom?”
“There is some lack of motivation amongst students, and this is caused predominantly by the way they were raised, how they were brought up. Caffeine, in certain doses, as long as you don’t overuse it, truly can be a solution. You just have to make sure that you aren’t abusing it like I did in the past, because that can send you on a real downward slope. Just like any psychoactive drug, it is possible to become dependent on caffeine. It is possible to feel as though one is not oneself without the presence of caffeine in one’s bloodstream.”
Question 4: “Do you believe school should start at a later time to adjust for students rapidly changing bodies and sleep schedules?”
“Studies have shown that adolescents need at least 9 hours per day to be at their fullest potential, which in this case equates to academic success. Meanwhile, we are expected to wake up at the crack of dawn. 7:00 in the morning, and we’re expecting to be outstanding students? It’s simply not going to happen, at least for the vast majority. I would say at least 9:00, or 9:30 at best. Anything over 9:30 is kind of pushing towards the realm of the extreme, but that time frame would be ideal. Also, to relate this back to caffeine. Many already know this, but caffeine can temporarily eliminate any feelings of tiredness or fatigue, which makes it a popular drug amongst students who may have destabilized sleep schedules. This partially explains the prevalence of caffeine in American schools.”
So there you have it Huskies, do you think it’s time for teachers to adjust their lesson plans? Or should we as a student body collectively rise up against said status quo and demand change in our classrooms? All hope is not lost however for staying focused in the classroom, sometimes all it takes is a good night’s sleep. If teachers are caught up and educated on the way students bodies behave in their staff meetings, they can adjust their schedules and teaching styles, to better accommodate a generation of students so disinterested in learning. It is simply up to the students to adapt to this change in teaching style, and stay focused in the classroom.