SPOKANE, Wash. – A Cheney High School teacher’s tweets about letting his exhausted teen student sleep in his class are going viral today.
Monte Syrie, a long-time English teacher, wrote up a thread about his student who was struggling to stay awake last week.
“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 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 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 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. 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. 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 essay done.
In fact, serendipitously, she proudly told me so when I ran into her at the grocery store at 6:45 this morning. She was getting some breakfast before her 7:10 math class. She’d been up since 5:00 doing chores. #myroom #project180“
When we spoke to Syrie Monday, he said he let the student sleep because he can and wanted to show compassion.
Syrie does an activity in his class everyday called "Smile or a Frown." He has his students share a good or bad thing happening in their lives, and that is how he learned about student Meg's track demands and her chores on the farm.
While the tweets went viral, he said he hopes other teachers take a page out of his book.
He said he tweeted about the situation hoping people could see that sometimes you have to make decisions based on our instincts and knowing what's best for students.
He said letting Meg sleep in his class was not an invitation for his students to sleep in class, but rather an invitation for students to come to him should they need help.
The Twitter thread struck a nerve on the Twitterverse, so to speak, and has been retweeted almost 700 times. It has more than 3,700 likes.
“A wonderful reminder that teaching is a human endeavor,” Jay Nickerson responded on Twitter.
“I read this the other day. It's so true. Sometimes, I wish I could get back to my first few years and apologize for some of my choices,” another teacher, Jess Miller Atkinson replied online. “When we know better, we do better.”
Syrie said there were other reasons for letting her sleep in class too, including because he can.
He also said he knew Meg pretty well from a game his class plays everyday called "a smile or a frown." It's where Syrie and his students say something good or bad thing about their life. That was where he learned about Meg's track demands and her chores on the farm.
Syrie said after this situation went viral he would want to make it the norm.
"I don't want tweets like this to go viral. I want them to be so hum-drum because we're so compassionate in education and understanding that if somebody does tweets like this are 'oh I'm going to scroll right on by that," said Syrie.
Syrie said that sometimes he just has to follow his instincts and do what's best for his students.