Note: This post was submitted to Student Caffé by Dave Monaco. Dave has worked in education for 24 years and counting. He is the Head of School at Parish Episcopal School and helps Parish live out their mission to guide young people to become creative learners and bold leaders. With his philosophy to “engage the mind, connect to the heart,” this father of three will continue bringing order to chaos one day at a time. We would like to thank him for his submission and credit him as the author of this blog post.
Teenagers and sleep go together like milk and cereal. While those few minutes (hours) after rousing them might not be pleasant, they’re certainly important. Sleep schedules and student grades are closely linked, with students who maintain a regular sleep schedule achieving higher grades than those who fall asleep and wake up at different times each day. As such, what they do—or fail to do—after those first wakeful moments can have a huge impact on their school performance.
Use this list to create a productive morning routine that boosts student grades and reverberates throughout the entire day.
1. Skip the snooze button.
Sleep experts universally agree that multiple snooze sessions are a bad idea. Each time you awaken and doze back off, your sleep cycle begins anew. This creates light, fragmented sleep that leaves you feeling less rested, not more. Instead, encourage students to set their alarms for the actual time they need to get up and get moving. You may have to stand guard for a few weeks while they get in the habit of rolling out of bed on the first ring. You can also suggest setting an alarm at night so they know when to bed down and avoid that all-night exam cram session.
2. Eat in a seat.
It’s not enough to simply encourage students to eat breakfast (although it is absolutely important for school performance). Actually have them physically sit down for a nutritionally balanced meal. It’ll discourage grab-and-go foods like sugary breakfast bars or smoothies. Make sure to include plenty of protein to keep blood sugar stable. Incorporate fresh fruits and veggies for fiber and antioxidants. Coffee can also improve cognition and is an ergogenic aid. Just make sure they aren’t drinking it on an empty stomach—it can tax the adrenals and lead to jitters.
3. Pause phone activity.
There’s no bigger time suck than the pull of a cell phone. Social media and other apps are designed to engage and hold our interest. Even the most disciplined among us aren’t immune to an important email or a full newsfeed. Best to have students wait and check that notification until after they’re fully awake, dressed, fed, and on their way out the door.
4. Build in time for reflection.
Reflection is a much better use of time than staring into a black mirror for hours on end. It might include sitting, grounding, and noting breath during a five-minute meditation. It could involve journaling about dreams or setting intentions for the day ahead. Students may also use this respite to sneak in some extra study time. Encourage them to visit the school library; it offers a quiet location where students can focus on their reflections and schoolwork. Completing studying in the morning when the brain is in top form—if you can convince your student to get to school early—leaves plenty of time to complete other assignments and is shown to improve test scores.
5. Discourage commuting by car.
As little as 20-minutes of low-impact exercise can increase test grades. But exercise isn’t just important for test days. It enhances concentration, creativity, memory, and attention span in addition to reducing test stress and anxiety. If your house is close enough, strongly suggest to your student that they walk or bike to school.
Though you may never turn your teen into a morning person, a structured schedule begets productivity. Reinforcing your student’s routine will have far-reaching benefits that extend well into the evening.