Monday, April 14, 2014

On Sleeping Children

Kids get sleepy in class. It's a fact of life. Sometimes they just say the hell with it and put their heads down. I don't much care for that. First of all, it's not the best of manners. Second, it's not particularly conducive to learning. Finally, I'm abundantly aware that when the principal walks in and said kid appears to be sleeping, it will not be the kid, but rather me who suffers the consequences. I'm okay with suffering the consequences for my own mistakes, but I don't much wish to suffer for the consequences of things I don't do firsthand.

Years ago I used to walk by the desks and kick the bottom, commenting on what a clumsy oof I was for doing so. This usually stunned students into picking up their heads. However, I had one student who regularly reeked of marijuana, and he did not much care for having his afternoon reveries disturbed. This kid went home and told his dad that I regularly hit him in class. An investigation ensued, and my students all reported this did not occur ever. But I recalibrated my approach.

My next step was to walk around the class, saying whatever it was I had to say, but raising my voice to maximum level when I passed a sleeper. This seemed to work, and did not provoke any formal complaints from the kids. But when you're in a trailer adjacent to another, sometimes other teachers take exception. They may be giving a test, and from time to time question the instructional value of incredibly loud screams during said test.

On Christmas, I received a gift of a sonic screwdriver replica. This is a tool that Doctor Who uses for various tasks on the TV show. The replica is a strange-looking object that extends and makes odd and spooky noises. When placed to the ear of a sleeping student it generally causes a reaction involving the raising of the head. However, it isn't long before they figure it does not actually do anything, no matter how many times you assert it analyzes brain waves, read minds, or whatever. But it's pretty funny, and students remain very curious about it as long as you never allow them to actually examine the thing close up.

But sometimes you forget to bring your sonic screwdriver to work. I've noticed that lately, rather than copy notes, some kids will pull out their phones and photograph the board. So once or twice, when kids appeared to be asleep, I took their photographs. Though I did absolutely nothing with the photos, this was not received well. One of my students took particular umbrage, though it was not she I had photographed. But she did not forget.

Sometimes students do not pay attention. On those occasions it may take them a very long time to answer a question. On one such occasion, while waiting for an answer, I decided to feign sleep myself. My student, the one who did not like my taking photos, sprung into action. She took a photo of me in which I appeared to be sleeping, and was thoroughly proud of her achievement.

I said that's not fair, you know I wasn't really sleeping, and that she should delete it. She said fine, but that I'd have to delete mine too. She looked at my phone, and after I deleted one, she checked for more. She made me delete every sleeping photo I'd captured before she would delete hers. I told her it was not fair since I had three and she only had one, but she didn't care. This girl was pursuing justice and would not be satisfied until she had achieved it. In the ongoing battle between student and teacher, she now held all the cards and there was to be absolutely no compromise.

So now I pull out my phone a little more slowly, and kids jump to warn potential victims before I actually get the shot. This seems to work, with the added advantage of allowing the kids to feel they're getting over on me.

But I had to give up altogether on feigning sleep when inattentive students were slow to give answers. That's OK. I have great faith I will come up with something better in time.
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