There is a dirty little secret in all talk of school reform. It turns out that it doesn’t matter how great your curriculum is. It doesn’t matter how much data backs up your new schedule. It doesn’t matter how developmentally sound your intervention is. If you don’t have “teacher fidelity,” your program will fail. In other words, if the teacher doesn’t implement it the way it was intended to be implemented or isn’t skilled enough to implement it as it was intended, all is lost.

So you would think that when you are both the reformer and the teacher everything should go swimmingly.

Too bad, then, that I go to bed so late.

You see, Reform #1 was going to be 30-60 minutes of vigorous exercise before school starts each day. I have a friend who has a friend whose son had a clinical case of the not-quite-right-in-my-body-can’t-sit-still-or-focus. He was going to Catholic school where such conditions were frowned upon. So she got up early and worked him out like he was in the Marines. And it worked. And Jeff does better when he rides his bike 30 or 40 miles in the morning.

Armed with convincing evidence based on hearsay and a dataset of two, I decided that we would do the same. Three days a week, I would get the boys and Jeff out the door by seven to swim or ride bikes. Two days a week I would do yoga with them.

But today, I was really, really tired. Last night, I couldn’t put down a book I was reading and stayed up until two in the morning. Not one to give up too quickly, I switched reforms midstream and decided that maybe the exercise would work best in the middle of the school day. I told the boys that if they stayed relatively on task until 10:30, we would all ride bikes together for an hour before we came back for the last hour of school.

Which was a stupid idea. The whole reason I decided on the early morning workout was because they CAN’T stay on task.

Predictably, around 9:40 Ezra sent his pencil flying across the room, dropped his head in his hand and cried out, “Why?! Why?! Why do I have to do second grade work?!!!!” (Every time something is difficult, he blames me for giving him second grade work when he is only in first grade. But the problem was 10+40, which he is more than capable of doing.) At 10:15, we were behind but if they had stayed really, really focused we could have finished by 10:30. Instead, they mocked my air writing activity. At 10:25, I declared the bike ride officially cancelled.

Ezra threw himself on the bed, wailing and beating his fists. Zach shrugged his shoulders in resignation and said, “I guessed that was gonna happen.”

Me too. Which is why tonight the reformer is going to see to it that the teacher goes to bed before tomorrow.

About Tara Edelschick

Right now, Tara is on sabbatical in Costa Rica. She is sleeping more, and exercising and flossing every day for the first time in her life. She is enjoying her husband, her boys, and Nafisa (the daughter she never had) more than she ever has. And she is learning to rest in the arms of the one who doesn't rank you based on how many things you can cross off your list at the end of the day. Follow her on Twitter@TaraWonders.

  • Vince

    I had just read a book talking about exercise being beneficial for those with ADHD. It is interesting that you bring it up here as being affective for a child you know. I'll have to talk with my wife about if/how we can try this for our kids. Please keep us updated on how the early morning exercise works out for your family and friends.

  • Shannah

    Love this reform. Hope it comes to fruition!!!

  • tedelschick

    Thanks for writing. I do hope that this will help. Something has to.