Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pulling Tricks Out of My Bag

One of the things that keeps me returning to teaching each semester is that there is always, always something new to deal with.

I try to keep in mind, I am the teacher, in charge of the class. I walk in, and it's my "show." But there are students who challenge that.

Several semesters back, I had a plain outright BAD section. In desperation, part way through the semester, I asked my husband who works in education what to do. He suggested, given group dynamics, there are times when a group just picks up cues from certain individuals and there is NOTHING you can do. This class had one student who was clearly racist. When I asked, for discussion, what would happen when the ethnic distribution in the U.S. shifts away from majority white what would the result be--this student spoke first and said--NOTHING. Whites will still be in charge. So much for diversity and sensitivity.

Then there was the ESL student who outright plagiarized. How did I know? I started reading her paper, and thought--hhhmm, this sounds familiar. It was. Her sister had turned in the same paper two semesters before. But, in the meantime, I had changed the assignment! Just goes to prove, plagiarizing is ALWAYS a dumb move.

And, who can forget, Mac Cheese? Enough said.

Now this semester--what could be my new challenge?

Why, students who sleep in class. Now, I have had this circumstance before. One student fell asleep and his books slid off the desk, landing on the floor with a LOUD bang, waking him up. I talked to him at the end of class, and he said--oh, I was planning to drop the course anyway.

But this semester, in each of my two sections, I have a student who sleeps consistently. I don't stand for it. First, how can you learn while you are asleep? Second, it is disrespectful. So, I call them out. One section begins at 8 a.m., and there sits this one guy in the back of the room, head propped against the wall, asleep. So I stop talking, wait a bit, then call his name.

The other section begins at 12:30 p.m., and two students, both guys, sit in the FRONT row, put their heads down and sleep. So, I walk over, bend down and peer into their faces. The other students giggle, which wakes them up. One of these two guys does look apologetic, but the other clearly could care less. Time to call them out and say--enough. I have warned them, I will mark them absent if they sleep through the whole class.

What else is there to do? I know these students are over-scheduled. Many work nearly full-time jobs (this is characteristic of a community college). But, I am unapologetic--I have worked in the business world, and people who sleep on the job get fired.

OK--I feel better. Anyone else have tricks to add to my bag?
photo credit:


Beverly said...

Oh my, I odn't have any answers for that. It must be so maddening! I've been volunteering in my friend's class, and I said to her the other day that I think I would have enjoyed working with older students (fourth grade) and she commented to me that she really enjoyed the younger ones so much better because they were still interested in learning.

So it starts down low. Maybe they will wake up before it's too late.

Beth said...

I had this problem many years ago when I taught math at a community college in Tennessee. One student--a farm boy--consistently slept through class but I knew he had milked a herd of cows already that morning. He sat in the back and his sleeping didn't bother anyone but me and I kind of understood. It was a math class and he missed a lot of instruction and ended up barely passing. I heard a story once about a class in a bible college where someone fell asleep and the one sitting next to him whispered to the sleeping man--"the teacher just asked you to dismiss us in prayer" so the sleeper stood up in the middle of class and started praying.

Anvilcloud said...

I would think that you don't have to put up with any sort of bad behaviour at that level (I may be wrong). Heck I wouldn't have put up with it at the high school level, and I wasn't terribly hard to get along with.

Anyway, I would be tempted to give them a choice: sleep elsewhere or be present in class. It's their choice, which seems reasonable to me. Do you have that option?

NCmountainwoman said...

I once had a professor who kept a pot and a wooden spoon near the lectern. If someone fell asleep, he quietly walked over and banged loudly on the pot in front of the student.

I don't think sleeping in class was nearly the problem when I was in school WAY back when.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

My daughter came home from high school last week giggling about a friend who slept through one class. She said it's quite common and most teachers don't make an issue of it. I told my daughter that I found it disrespectful and insulting. I think I would mark those students absent and ask them to leave.

LauraHinNJ said...

That sounds very familiar, Donna!

I can't imagine they wouldn't be embarrassed with it though.

troutbirder said...

Enjoyed looking through your blog but not this problem. Reminds me why I'm glad to have been able to retire.
English language. I had done a lesson of Lewis and Clark and their interaction with the Shoshones in the West. Later on an essay test a student made reference to "the Shoe Shine Tribe"

RuthieJ said...

Hi Donna,
I'm one of those chronically sleepy people who can fall asleep just about anywhere, that's why whenever I have to go to a meeting or lecture (especially one where they have to dim the lights to show slides) I always have some knitting along or a paper and pen to doodle on--anything to keep my hands and brain alert! Do you allow students to knit in your classes while you're lecturing? (although the guys you mention probably wouldn't anyway!)
What I don't understand is, why pay for the class if the student has no intention of participating?

Ginnie said...

Once again I have to say that I don't envy you. It must be so difficult to know what is right in these cases. Is there any way that you can determine the cause of their lack of sleep? Some kids have it much tougher than others.

Mary said...

"So, I walk over, bend down and peer into their faces."

Oh, I can imagine that...Donna, you are on the mark.

I'm in a community college where I see students sleeping outside of the buildings, under trees, and in their cars. They don't care if they miss class. By the looks of them, I doubt they'll earn credit.

Keep cracking the whip. Maybe you'll save a few. :o)

Nora said...

I remember maccheese and so enjoyed reading about it but sleeping through my class I would not enjoy that....(Hi Donna)...It is just rude.