Why are we so afraid of the start of the new day—the shift from post to ante meridiem, the pale silence pre-sunrise? Why must we dot our i’s, cross our t’s, and settle our debts before the clock strikes 12? 11:59 PM no longer feels like the elusive “dead of the night.” 11:59 PM is no longer an hour unreachable because mom said, “lights out by 9:30.” 11:59 PM feels quite elementary. You won’t hear someone share that they slept at midnight; even 1 AM seems rather ordinary. The most awe is earned by those who choose to brave the whole night wide awake.
11:59 is such an ugly number. I confess that I may be partial to odd numbers. I’d pick 7 over 8 any day. But 11:59 waves a red flag. “11” is quite adequate, prime, but the repetition provides a form of symmetry. “59” is incredibly random, another prime. But “1159” insults its creators—a rebel non-prime child, the product of 19 and 61. Yet 11:59 is one of the most recognizable moments of a day, a little below 11:11 in the official Best Times of the Day List.
11:59 has become the new end of a day. We no longer wait for 11:59:59 unless we are counting down the seconds before the new year. So what happens in the grey area of time between 11:59:00 and the official start of a new day—that moment when it’s 11:59:34, supposedly all our assignments are submitted, and we have just 26 seconds left before it’s officially the new day? This minute feels like a privilege, stolen from the mere 36,792,000 minutes in an average person’s life. Do we take this moment to reconcile our differences, solve world hunger, or scroll through four 15-second TikToks?
I’ll tell you what Chatham students are doing. The average Chatham student has just opened up their next assignment.
And they tell us to sleep 9 hours a day. With the latest report of Chatham students’ inadequate sleep schedules, it’s clear that 11:59 deadlines are a contributing factor. Most CHS students come home in the evening after a day of school, sports, and other activities to find only a few hours left to finish homework for the night. In some cases, this homework requires an hour of self-studying to grasp the concept that needs to be applied in the assignment.
In an ideal situation, a CHS student gets home sometime in the evening. The student does a few hours of work and then is expected to sleep by 9 and 10 to wake up for school between 6 and 7 AM, averaging 9 hours. The student is lucky enough to have a study hall in Period 2 to complete his Spanish homework due next period.
At the moment, the situation is far from ideal. Let’s propose that a student drops his study hall today. He still gets home in the evening. Now, the student has 5 hours to eat dinner, finish homework, study for upcoming exams, and prepare for the night if the student wants, at most, 6-7 hours of sleep. But the student has a lab report due at 11:59, along with a math worksheet and a 45-minute practice test that he must start at 11:14 at the latest. For him to complete the math worksheet, he needs to spend some time reviewing the material. After all that, he has to start an English reading.
Now I must also sympathize with all you “early-risers” (whatever inhuman trait that has given you the ability to enjoy waking up in the early single digits is utterly unfathomable). 11:59 deadlines only benefit the night owls and not those who prefer to sleep early, wake up early, and finish assignments.
The best solution would be for all assignments to be due before the start of class, just as before the days of Schoology submissions when homework would be due on the teacher’s desk at the beginning of class the next day. I ask, would it hurt so much if an assignment was submitted at 12:03? While I’ve seen my share of fast graders, I know no teacher would choose to grade assignments as they come in in the middle of the night. Removing 11:59 deadlines benefits the student’s health and would make time spent in study halls more productive. Of course, I must quote Mr. Kimec here and bring up TINSTAAFL. Teachers manage several classes, and it will take a few minutes more of their limited time to set these personalized deadlines.
Here’s a temporary compromise: all morning class assignments should be due at 7:40 AM, and all after-lunch class assignments should be due at 11:36 AM, right after lunch. Friday nights are tricky, a popular deadline because they allow teachers to grade over the weekend, but not ideal for students. Soon, we may be able to move towards deadlines set right before the start of their respective classes.
11:59 deadlines are not entirely unavoidable. College applications, online registrations, and competition submissions all have these last-minute deadlines. Even this article, due before October 21st, turned into the 22nd. However, some deadlines are integral to society and required to keep order. 11:59 deadlines are understandable for long-term projects where there isn’t a scheduled in-person meeting time.
11:59 is representative of our fascination with work and inability to rest. We are not free to manage the 18-something hours of our day left from our daily bell schedule as we wish. 11:59 deadlines are non-inclusive, authoritative demands that sublimely dictate our freedom. 11:59 is a feeble attempt to manage 1,300 students with unique schedules and habits. It does not force students not to procrastinate. We still will, and our work will be indicative of it.
By setting boundaries with school, we learn how to respect ourselves. When we join the workforce, perhaps we will instill a policy to stop checking emails after 7:00 PM. Maybe we will learn how to be assertive in our future 9-5 jobs, which tend to shift from working at the office to working from home after 5:00 PM. Even teachers can attest to spending time outside their classroom making plans or preparing engaging materials for their students.
Of course, I’ve waited until the last moment to finish writing this, so I better send it in before my car turns into a pumpkin, my clothes turn into rags, and I get a not-so-happy email from my editor.