The Classroom Sleeper – Are We Paying Attention?

Source: Michael Wesch
We’ve all had students in our classes over the years who sat in the back to put their heads down to sleep. This is not the student we’ve referred to as the “understudent,” who waits in the wings or quietly sits in the shadows of the room doing the required work. We’re not talking about the quiet ones, the introverts, or the “low verbals” either. The “sleeper” is different.

We recently showed a group of students preparing public service announcements one of our favorite videos called the "Vision of Students Today," produced in 2007 by Michael Wesch, for its effective way to deliver a powerful message. That’s when we discovered his recent animated video titled “The Sleeper.”

The message hit home. We’re positive that educators experienced the same frustration as the teacher in the animation, and perhaps even thought that the sleeper deliberately set out to annoy us. Some may have wondered if the student disengaged because of boredom, or questioned whether it was the material or their teaching style. For others, it’s personal and exasperating.

Source: Michael Wesch
Why are sleepers so unsettling?

Are they not paying attention, or are we?

How sensitive are we to students who disengage?

This becomes our challenge!

We should not be so quick to judge, or make assumptions about why they're tired. If we never stop to ask, we may never know the hidden talents that push students to stay up late to create something they are passionate about through sheer desire.

In an education system too focused on narrow pursuits, it misses the strengths, the interests, and the opportunities for not only the sleeper, but also for every other student as well.

Source: Michael Wesch
We need to stop and ask, make it personal, and tap curiosity. When we do, we just might find out something that surprises us.