Teachers, you have our sympathy.
The week of Halloween is a difficult time week to keep kids focused on learning. And this week, many teachers told us, there was one extra element making their students act a little crazy: the full moon.
A couple years ago, I was at Congress Elementary school in Grand Rapids. I spent a lot of time there, so I knew the principal Bridget Cheney and the teachers fairly well. At least, I thought I did.
So, one day, it seemed things were a bit off in the building. The kids were just – let’s say squirrelly.
I was talking to Cheney about that. And she said one of the reasons kids were acting weird: a full moon was coming.
I thought it was a joke.
Then, the third grade teacher, Renee Howard came in.
"Oh my gosh," she said, "today was just – and you know it’s the full moon too."
"I just told him that," Cheney said. "He thinks we’re crazy."
Howard told me she used to think it was nuts to believe the moon could affect children’s behavior. Then she became a teacher.
"I just despised the day before, the day of and the day after a full moon," she said. "Because you could see it building-wide."
Cheney told me I could ask anyone in education, they’d tell me the same thing.
So that’s what I did. Last week, we asked teachers and principals to send a tweet to Michigan Radio, and tell us whether the full moon affects their students. We got more than dozen responses. Nearly all of them the same – Yes, kids are different on full moon days.
"Everyone believes it," Nagy said, laughing. "It's truth."
One person who wrote to us is Kim Nagy, a music teacher at Highlands Middle School in Grand Rapids. I met her on Monday, the day before the full moon hit.
"I charted today," she said. "So I have a list."
She opened up a little planner, and pointed to a box with a bunch of checkmarks.
"The first section came in about three times louder than usual," she said. "And I had to stop class five times, which I would say is at least two times more than usual, because that’s a great class."
Nagy has been a public school teacher for 19 years. She says it took her about one year to be convinced there’s a connection between the full moon and student behavior.
"Does every teacher you know believe this?" I asked "Or are there teachers you know who don’t believe it?"
"Everyone believes it," Nagy said, laughing. "It’s truth."
"I’ve always just had this thought, and a lot of educators do, that kids act different whenever it’s a full moon," says Natalie Fikac, Coordinator of Guidance Services at the Pearland Intermediate School district in Pearland, Texas.
I called her up because she is one of the few people who has actually tried to study this moon question, using statistical techniques. She wrote her PhD thesis on it. She checked data on disciplinary referrals at a single high school over a two year period.
"There were always at least an average of two or more referrals on full moon days," she says. "But it’s not statistically significant."
So: officially, no connection.
Fikac was only able to find three other studies that even looked at this question. So counting hers, there are now four.
Other studies have looked at connections between adult behavior and the moon. And the evidence doesn’t really support the idea that there’s any connection at all.
But Fikac says the research on the full moon and student behavior – there’s just not enough of it.
"So far, have you found anything that debunks the theory?" I ask.
"No," she laughs.
"So you still believe in it." I say.
"I still believe in it," she says. "Yes."
And she is not alone.