10 Ways We Would Fix the U.S. School System

Our kids are remarkable. They have unmatched gifts and perspectives. Yet they struggle academically — in large part because schools are not traditionally set up to recognize and build upon their learning styles. The solutions, it turns out, are often easier to visualize than they are to enact. Here is how we would start to re-think school.

7. Encourage Smart Scheduling

“We start each day with a limited amount of self-control, and as we use it up, we deplete it,” says Gretchen Rubin author of The Happiness Project. Focusing in class takes energy and self-control, and the reminder strategies our kids use to rein in physical and verbal impulses are exhausting. As the school day wears on, students with ADHD run out of steam. Front-loading a student’s curriculum with the most difficult subjects can promote greater learning while energy is still high. A recent study showed that, for every hour after 8am an exam took place, the students' test scores dropped 1%.

Creative scheduling at school that alternates high- and low- energy lessons can make a difference. Follow a spirited music class with a period of creative writing. Schedule a subject that requires great concentration — such as math — after recess or physical education. Lessons should be short with frequent breaks — even during tests. Build in movement throughout the school day. Exercise gives the brain a break to rest and restore self-control. In kindergarten and first grade, get the whole class stretching, jogging in place, and singing songs accompanied by hand and body motions. Give older students opportunities to move around by placing a mini-trampoline or yoga ball in the back of the room. Letting out pent-up energy improves focus.
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