Manual will have its first Crimson Hour, a free period that students can use for taking a longer lunch, socializing or meeting with clubs or teachers, on Friday, Nov. 3. If this goes well, administrators may implement it on a regular basis.
While Crimson Hour has yet to be tested, the concept of having downtime is an alluring one. Many Manual students feel stressed and overwhelmed with homework, extracurriculars, various deadlines and even employment, in some cases.
Although Manual often boasts of its status as the best school in Kentucky that prepares students for college-level academics, our school should also foster an environment that mirrors the flexibility of a college schedule with downtime and social time built in for the majority of students.
Currently, students have a 20-minute lunch period and five minute breaks between classes built into the day for free time. Anything that cannot be accomplished during these times must be done before or after school, which leaves limited time for errands or making up work. Even using the restroom takes careful planning so as not to miss class time.
The importance of downtime
Years of research on downtime and the stress levels of students has shown that a “resting-state network” helps students process experiences, regulate attention span and keeps students’ brains in the most productive mindset.
Researchers have also demonstrated that downtime with socialization can improve the future social lives of students. Learning communication and people skills can help students in future job and college interviews. Annie Murphy Paul, an author and journalist who now works for PBS, reported that “high school [is] a formative life experience, as social as it is academic, in which students encounter a jostling bazaar of potential identities—from jock to prep to geek—and choose, or are assigned, one [social responsibility] that will stay with them for years to come.”
Manual students overwhelmingly agree that downtime is important when it comes to their stressful lifestyle. Of 175 survey respondents, 83 percent said downtime is “very important” and 17 percent said it was “somewhat important.” Not a single respondent agreed that downtime was “not important.”
A free hour could also be beneficial for students who have trouble focusing during lengthy 90-minute classes. Five minutes of transition time between very different subjects is not easy for all students. Many could use a free hour to take a mental break from challenging classes and task-focused peer interactions. Some teachers already adjust to the blocks with short bathroom and water breaks, for the benefit of students that lose energy and interest during long lectures.
Many Manual students experience a fair amount of stress from a number of sources. An overwhelming 96.6 percent of respondents cited school as a source of their stress. The school should accommodate these stressed students, even with something as small as extra free time.
Manual students often engage in multiple time-consuming activities in and outside of the classroom, which adds to their stress. 96 percent of survey respondents participate in extracurricular activities and/or have a job, which leaves less time to complete homework. Half of the respondents reported having 3-4 hours of homework on the average weeknight, obviously taking up the majority of a student’s night.
Students with many hours of homework every night could utilize the Crimson Hour to study or finish work, enabling them to enjoy some much-needed relaxation time at home.
Crimson Hour will help administrators, students, teachers and parents work together to change the “culture of stress” while still creating high standards for all.