Monday, April 25, 2011

Sleeping is Not Acceptable Part 1

sleepingI became involved in another discussion that was recently started by a teacher in my Ravelry (a knitting/crocheting site) forum. She says, 

“I’m working on a project so they might get thrown in throughout here) regarding motivating students. Especially in regards to students who A) sleep and/or shut down as a means to dealing with frustration B) lash out (verbally or physically) as a means to dealing with frustration and confusion and C) whether or not you should address these issues to the class or individually.”

Here is my response:

I have had students like this and these are things I've done:
1. Call home and talk to the parents about the problem.
2. Announce to class that anyone sleeping will be asked to stand up. If they refuse you will call home or refer them to an administrator. (I mention that I will be doing this to the parents and to the administrators so they can back me up if the student refuses.) I give one warning to the student before I ask the person to stand up if they are sleeping.
3. Meet with the student and have the student help me find ways to keep engaged. There may be a problem that makes the student feel depressed that is causing this behavior. Or the student may be frustrated and you can think of ways to help the student.

One year I had a freshman who slept a lot in my class. I had him stand up and I called home (but mom was always unavailable), but nothing helped. I kept meeting with the student privately until finally he was tired of my “badgering” and told me that his mom had moved 300 miles away to start a new job. He lived alone with his 18 year old brother who was expelled from school. This brother was having nightly parties that involved drugs and alcohol. My student was told not to tell anyone this story because they would all get in trouble. I explained to him that it was my job to protect him from this situation and that I had to report it. I think by this time, he wanted me to report it because he couldn’t take any more. If I hadn’t been persistent, I might never have found out the truth.

Another high school student I had was always falling asleep in my class. I felt he was being rude and defiant so I called home. I was so shocked when the mother was not surprised. She told me that he worked a full time 3rd shift job at the mill and was only in school because I told him how important it was to finish. She didn’t feel that school was important and had encouraged him to quit. She said her and her husband worked full time at the mill and they never finished school so she didn’t think it was important. They had bought a new pontoon boat and my student had to work so he could pay his share. She said that if he was falling asleep, then it was my own fault! I was speechless.

Needless to say, this changed my whole attitude about the student. I met with him privately and we talked about the problem. I understood that he was exhausted and he appreciated that I cared. I knew he was trying but I couldn’t allow sleeping in my class. He agreed to stand up when he was falling asleep. He also would be allowed to go get a drink of water or use the restroom to throw water on his face. I agreed that if he finished his work, he would be allowed to go to the nurse’s station and take a short nap on the cots there if they were empty. (Approval by the nurse was also given for this).

We worked it out and he actually graduated high school a few years later. He has been back to visit with me a few years later and told me that because he graduated, he was actually promoted at the mill and his parents realized that I was right for encouraging him to finish school. I have also taught his younger brother and sister and the parents were right there encouraging them to finish school with me. I appreciated that the parents were willing to change their attitudes when they saw how education can truly change their children’s lives.
I’m not saying this is the case in every sleeping case but sometimes there are circumstances I don’t know about. When I see a child sleeping in class on a regular basis, I need to play investigator and see if there is more to the story than just tiredness or frustration. If the reason for sleeping is laziness, or refusing to go to bed at a reasonable hour, or staying up all night on the phone or computer, then it is time to get tough and refuse to back down. But if we dig for information, sometimes we find out there is more than meets the eye. We can find solutions so that the student can be more successful in the classroom.

What do you do with a student who habitually sleeps in class?

(Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of this post showing some responses from others in my Ravelry group!)

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
Original image: 'Hard work can hurt' by: Dave C

6 comments: said...

Those are awesome stories of a great teacher doing what they should and being persistent. So many teachers would give up; I know I did sometimes. Everyday I left feeling like I had let the students down b/c I couldn't do everything I needed for every student.

loonyhiker said... Sometimes when I feel like giving up, I try to remind myself how my persistence has helped others and it keeps me going! :) Thanks for reading my blog and leaving a comment!

angelesb said...

I work in a school where some chidren work, some of them in very hard conditions, because of economical needs. It's difficult for them to stay paying attention in a hot, small classroom. I've had two or three cases and let them sleep for a while and when class finishes talk seriously to them about what happened and what can I do for helping them.
We don't have a place where they can rest :-[
I like your post because it's real life even though there are some teachers who don't want to talk about it

loonyhiker said...

@angelesb Your students are lucky to have a caring teacher like you who is willing to look at the circumstances and treat each person individually. How can we teach them new skills if their basic needs are not being met? Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

luckeyfrog said...

I agree with angelab- sometimes there is just a kid who clearly needs a little sleep. If it's not a common issue with that student, or if there is some kind of understandble problem (like the student we had whose medicine made him extremely sleepy), we sometimes just let them sleep for a few minutes.

Frequent sleeping is not acceptable, but I don't see that as a problem in my primary room. My guess would be that it's more of an issue for secondary teachers.

loonyhiker said...

@luckeyfrog I'm glad you haven't had to deal with this much on your level. I have had elementary school students who did not get any sleep because of parents fighting. If it is not a habit, I think it is smart to deal with each case individually.