The sleeping student is a classroom staple that has been the object of ridicule for ages by both peers and teachers alike.
They're pranked (in some cases deservedly) and are used as a symbol of the dangers of slacker culture.
Although it's funny, I mean, really funny to watch unsuspecting sleepyheads get their comeuppances, there are some professors who actually let some of their students get in a quick nap while they're lecturing, believe it or not.
Professor Monte Syrie is one of those teachers and, as crazy as it may sound, his reasoning actually makes a lot of sense.
Meg fell asleep in class yesterday. I let her. I didn't take it personally. She has zero-hour math, farm-girl chores, state-qualifying 4X400 fatigue, adolescent angst, and various other things to deal with. My class is only a part of her life, not her life. No, she did not use— Monte Syrie (@MonteSyrie) May 16, 2018
her time wisely in class yesterday. She didn't get her essay turned in. She knew that. I knew that, but I didn't beat her up about it. Didn't have to. She emailed it to me last night at 9:00 PM. On her own. I know we all somewhat subscribe to this notion that there's a right way— Monte Syrie (@MonteSyrie) May 16, 2018
of doing things, and letting kids sleep in class falls outside the boundaries. I get it, and I'm not suggesting that we make it a permanent part of repertoire /routine, but I am suggesting that we sometimes trust our instincts, even if it goes against the grain, maybe especially— Monte Syrie (@MonteSyrie) May 16, 2018
if it goes against the grain, for I am not always convinced the grain best considers kids. In a different room, Meg may have been written up for sleeping in class and given a zero for a missing essay, but she wasn't in a different room; she was in my room. My room.— Monte Syrie (@MonteSyrie) May 16, 2018
Call it being overly sympathetic, or call it maybe not being harsh enough, but Syrie considered the student in question, taking her situation into account, and decided to treat her accordingly.
Syrie knows that this particular student, Meg, has a butt-load of farm work to handle at home. That she's an athlete, and that his class isn't the end-all, be-all, most important thing in her life.
And in my room there are lots of things I CAN do. I can't control the world outside. I can't offer Meg a math class later in the day. I cannot feed her horses (many horses) in the morning or evening. I cannot run 6 race-pace 300's for her. I cannot spirit away her teen trouble.— Monte Syrie (@MonteSyrie) May 16, 2018
Syrie believed that if he trusted his instincts that Meg would do the right thing, and as a high school teacher who actually believes in a young person, that makes him a unicorn.
And before you call him crazy, it turns out that trust in his instincts paid off, because Meg ultimately got her work done - there just wasn't enough time in the day for it beforehand.
But I can give her a break. She was not being rude or disrespectful yesterday when she nodded off. She was tired. So I gave her a break. I can do that. And I want to believe, I have to believe--else my life is a lie, that it will come back in the end. And it did. Meg got her— Monte Syrie (@MonteSyrie) May 16, 2018
Because if someone with a work ethic like Meg's is dozing off in class, there's probably a reason for it, and Syrie wasn't going to jam her up as a result.
His tweet thread about busts-her-butt-Meg ended up making the rounds on Twitter, with parents thanking Syrie for his no-ego approach to running his classroom.
You could have written this about my 17 yr old daughter. Teachers like you are such a blessing to our children.— Katherine Willis (@theKatWillis) May 17, 2018
Other parents shared similar stories about their own kids who struggled with juggling all of their responsibilities, and were thankful that awesome teachers helped them out.
My son who is 15 had a mental breakdown on Tuesday and the student success teacher let him sleep in his office and he called me said he did a professional judgement to allow this- I’m thrilled my son has someone he can go to and trust. What he did for my son was awesome🤗— KimC (@LoveandFaith69K) May 17, 2018
Glad someone was looking out for your son. Some empathy and compassion can go a long ways. 🙂— Monte Syrie (@MonteSyrie) May 17, 2018
For this guy, a little bit of understanding and kindness from his high school teacher went a long way. Years later, he still remembers this awesome decision a teacher made after he endured one of the worst days in his life.
When I was in HS my bf broke up with me, college applications were due, and I fell apart. I showed up to a test in tears. My teacher took me into the hall, told me it was OK, and sent me home. He let me take the test later. I will NEVER forget his kindness and empathy that day.— Zane Bauer (@ZanePants) May 17, 2018
Or this other student who was happy their own teacher reacted like Syrie's to her impromptu doze-off session.
Thank you for being kind to her! I fell asleep in my freshman math class bc I had swim practice before & after school. I was exhausted. My T was like you and took it in stride, rather than as an insult. 👍🏼— Janet (@JanetPlanet20) May 17, 2018
He's also inspiring other teachers to be a bit kinder to their students.
Knowing our students and doing our best for them is the best, hardest and most important part of our jobs.— Angela Cooper (@angecooper) May 17, 2018
Because, like a lot of the stories in Syrie's thread show, there are circumstances where an arbitrary application of the "rules" just makes you a jerk.
10 years ago I had a homeless student who would fall asleep in class about once a week. The 1st time it happened he came in after school to ask about what he slept through and to thank me. That pattern continued all year... 7 yrs ago he graduated.— Aaron Brecek, NBCT⚾️ (@Brecek24) May 17, 2018
The reality is that few students will remember the information you teach 5-10 years down the road, but they will always remember the compassion you showed while in your class.— Aaron Brecek, NBCT⚾️ (@Brecek24) May 17, 2018
A little bit of compassion when the situation calls for it goes a long, long way.