It is 7:18 a.m.
The bell rings and students head down the hallways towards their first-period class. Instead of the usual morning stupor, the high schoolers are wide awake, pumped full of their favorite caffeinated liquid.
This new caffeine-created alertness took over just recently due to student’s new need to pay attention. Exam week is around the corner and the need to stay awake throughout the school day is absolute.
“I usually zone out in class, but when I realized how close we are to the end of the year, I decided I needed to be awake, so I could prepare for finals,” said Kayleigh Babcock, a junior at Leesville. “I thought about getting more sleep at night, but with my busy weekday schedule that just wasn’t an option, so instead I turned to coffee to wake me up, and it does the trick.”
For Babcock, a typical weekday is a whirlwind of events, leaving her exhausted and unable to fall asleep until at least 4 a.m.
“School ends at 2:18,” she said, listing her schedule for the day. “Afterwards I have soccer practice until 5, then tutoring because I need volunteer hours. When I come home I have guitar lessons, homework which –if I’m lucky– only takes me six hours to complete, and then a half an hour of test prep for the ACT. When I finish all my work, I shower, lie in bed, and play on my phone until I fall asleep at about four. In the morning, I barely have enough energy to drag myself out of bed, let alone stay fully conscious through my first period without a Starbucks cold brew.”
Like most other students, Babcock only drinks about six cups of coffee a day. However, roughly 30% of Leesville students are finishing as many as fifteen cups in the same period of time.
Before he started drinking coffee, Shane Andrews was a typical back-of-the-classroom type student. He was known for sleeping through classes — rarely (if ever) finishing an assignment before it was due.
“I used to sleep constantly, probably twelve to fifteen hours a day. Mainly I napped when I was tired but also whenever I was bored which –in school– was a lot. Just a few weeks ago, I went out with a friend, and he bought a cup of coffee. I decided to buy one too, and when I had my first sip I knew it was the only thing that could keep me awake enough to bring my grades up.”
As of May 7, Andrew has been drinking this life-changing liquid for three weeks, and his academic career seems to be turning around.
“I stay awake through class now,” he said. “At this point, I’m awake almost all the time, in fact I’ve yet to sleep in the past three days, I’m not even tired, and the caffeine jitters are great at track practice. Coach says he hasn’t seen someone run as fast as me in years, at least not on this little sleep.”
In addition to Andrew’s track coach, the high school staff are seeing massive changes in their class behavior.
“Usually I look at the class and only four or five of them are actually paying attention, but since the great coffee craze took hold, every student is paying attention, first period through fourth. I have noticed their eyes are bloodshot, but at least they’re looking at me instead of out the window or at their shoes,” said Ms. Gordon, a chemistry teacher at Leesville Road High School.
“My students are also doing a better job turning in work on time. I just tell them the assignment is due at the end of class and they start writing a million miles a minute, their handwriting takes an absurd amount of time to comprehend but I am 90% sure they are doing the work and not just scribbling on their paper and passing it off as writing.
As one can see, the benefits of caffeine far outweigh any potential downsides like twitching and anxiety. Drinking coffee at this extreme rate may have once been a rare occurrence but with the new levels of student productivity teachers and health officials are supporting the trend so that it might not go away.
“I was against coffee once,” said Mr. Mitchell, principal of Sunshine High School. “Then I saw the good things it did to our school and now I believe in it.”