Thursday, August 29, 2013

Waking up a sleepy head in the classroom

If I were teaching grade school or high school, be it public or private, I could fail an observation evaluation when my supervisor spots a student sleeping in the classroom, while a discussion or any activity is going on. I could be summoned in the principal's office for negligence of "duty" and failure to manage the class well. Worst, I would lose my job.

In principle, a teacher ought to be an effective manager, monitoring the behavior of every learner in the classroom, keeping their attention "seemingly" focused on the teacher, the content of the lesson, and what is going on in the four walls of the classroom. This is if follow the classical behavioral approach of teaching, traditionally. Further, in principle, the instruction should extend from teaching the content and competencies to enabling the students to acquire and demonstrate valued traits.

I rather look at a classroom situation with an open mind, and I treat and understand my students with the breadth and depth. Now, that I have embraced teaching for 15 years, I am still learning from what goes on in the class, each day and each meeting I would meet my students. Each time is different and offers me new learning and sometimes challenges me to rethink my perspectives on teaching and learning.

I just can't be stuck on comparing myself while I was at their age, while I was young and schooling -- simply because I am dealing with a different generation, amid the gap of more than half my age. Counting, I must have more than 15,000 students who passed my mentoring. Of those, I could recall only five instances of students sleeping in my class.They too, passed.With the first four, I called their attention, with the last and most recent one I let them slept throughout the period until I was just about to dismiss the class. 5 over 15,000 is a probability of 0.0033 (if my computation is right) which I should expect to happen in the next 15 years of my career.

The first two happened a decade ago, the third three years ago, and the last two, just within these week, after long days of class suspension and while finals is just a few days away. Could I say that the trend of spotting a sleepy head in the classroom is increasing over time?

In my earlier teaching years, the first instance was during my first year of teaching in college. He was already sleeping. I looked at everyone, and gestured at them to be quiet. I called each name in the class roster softly, and yelled when I called the sleepy boy's name. He sat up straight, then pretended to be attuned and ready for the class. A few minutes past, he was at a hype, laughing like he was drank. No, he wasn't drank, but drugged which his classmates confirmed. I got to talk to him about it, after the class, and he never repeated that.

The second time, a student slept in my class, was in a military school abroad. He was just ensign. I called the other soldier beside him, and signalled to wake his classmate up. He greeted me good morning, and I greeted him back. Then, in his cranky voice, he told me "he is tired". I replied, that I was also tired, and told him, that we don't have a choice but to do what we have to do. Him as student should study, and I as teacher should teach. Never again, that instance happened in the class.

The third student who slept in my class, had the same reason that he was tired. I knew he was sleeping, so I called his attention. He was patted by a seatmate to wake-up. After that, he went back to his sleep. I was lecturing then, and I could not waste my time and the presence of those students who are eager to learn, by getting mad out of the ominous feeling of being "disrespected". I diverted the lesson, from lecture to a group activity, but, too late one student had picture of him sleeping in my class, with me as background explaining the lesson. The picture was flashed on the screen, next meeting, and never again did that happen in that class.

The fourth and fifth instances just happened within this week. This is the hell week that my students consider, when they are frantic about completing their requirements, projects and assignments, and cramming due to procrastination. I am aware of that situation, so I made adjustments to my lesson pace, but in these classes, we needed to finish one more learning activity.

Earlier, one student came late, his face is soggy and actually asked me if he could go to the clinic. I asked how he was feeling, he said dizzy. I asked if he had a fever, he said no. I told him to stay, and complete the activity, and he could leave as he finished, as I knew he could do it fast, based on his performance record. He was still reciting when I explained the lesson, but when I gave the writing task, his eyes were drooping and his head like magnetized to the paper. He slept. I didn't bother to wake him up, the same thing with what I did to the last student.

However, with the last student who slept in my class. I didn't bother to talk to him like i didn't bother to wake him up. He used to be very responsive and active in the class. He was gasping for breath when he came in, after he, along with his classmates, took his project from another floor. He just slept, quietly at a corner of the room, after a few minutes of my lecture. I just placed the worksheet at the empty desk near his seat. While I was looking at the class, and him, I could not stop thinking about what he did last night and what time he slept.

We didn't get a chance to talk about his sleeping in the class, but I told him when was awake that he missed two activities, one was an assignment he did not submit, the other was that day's activity because he was sleeping. I could not hold myself from posting a status in my FB wall about the incident. One of his classmate tagged him to this post:

The next day and the last day of our meeting for the term, he submitted his missed assignment. He did not submit yesterday's activity, because I told him that I would not accept it anyway and that's the consequence of sleeping in the class. He was apologetic and promised that it will never happen again. I told him, it won't because that was our last day of meeting.

I never dozed in the class because I wanted to learn. I never dozed in the class because I had done things before their submission. I never dozed in the class because I was busy all night. I remember those college days, that I had to drink coffee 5 times just to stay awake for my 6 pm class.

I got comments from friends and relatives that I should have woke him up and I should have called his attention because they think sleeping in the classroom is disrespectful. I had an inkling that they sense I was disrespected. Not, at all. I found it funny really to see one dropped his head on the desk, mouth open and totally knocked away from the class activity. There's only one sign in the room, "no eating or drinking". I am not sure if there is in the student handbook a rule that says, "no sleeping".

I got a little upset, I admit. At that time, I was asking myself how boring the class was, but he was asleep  while the rest were actively involved? His sleep deprivation could have caused it, not the classroom activity, besides the classroom lighting and airconditioning are really conducive for sleeping. He slept, that's it, I did my role afterwards, and no other meaning attached to it.

Honestly, I don't find him disrepectful for dozing in the class, and I don't feel disrespected either. Respect to me comes from being respectable in many other ways, not just by calling the attention of a sleepy head, in an obvious interruption of a natural bodily response to sleep deprivation. We are all awaken to our mistakes by consciously knowing we have committed a mistake. There's no mistake in sleeping, a power nap is even advised in some unconventional schools and offices.  Maybe, he should have asked me if he could sleep, politely? That's unnecessary for a teacher who knows his students as he knows himself.

Anyway, after submitting his missed activity and grading it, he made to get a passing mark. Whether he learned from his mistake, that is for him since he is a college student already.