Saturday, March 15, 2014

Teachers and Sleep!

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) - They can't quite believe it! For some Russians I spoke to were perplexed to hear that Jan Peczkis, a veteran science teacher, was fired from a Chicago public school for accidently falling asleep. It is even stranger to hear that this was due to him suffering from a particular illness which can be mastered and contained with particular methods.

If the said teacher had attempted to kill a pupil, or refused to turn up at his post, it might be explicable. But this is not clearly the case.

By those standards I should have been put on their 'Don't Hire list' long ago. Fortunately or unfortunately, I'm not an American citizen so I can't help improve their statistical accounts. I'm a private tutor, but I have had 20 years experience of teaching in various Russian schools, colleges and universities.

I did not doze off because of some illness or old age, but fatigue and the boring text a student was reading to me on one occasion. The student's reaction was at first shocking disbelief, to amusement. In fact, that tends to be the reaction of most students. They seldom explode in anger or inform on you, but express a mixture of shock, surprise, and then amusement. (I personally would disqualify myself from teaching, but my wife won't allow it and neither will some students.)

What is the logical answer to seeing a teacher doze off? Well, you certainly don't need to call a headmaster official or policeman! That type of reaction reminds me of the neighbor who complained about a leaking pipe in my bathroom. Instead of calling a plumber, they called a policeman! The reasonable response is to waken the teacher up so he or she can carry on the lesson. If the dozing off becomes a habit, the teacher might inquire why this situation occurs and take measures to control it. Dozing off need not prevent teaching if you waken up the teacher. It is that simple!

A few years ago I was teaching English to a student of physics from Moscow State University where his professor would doze off from time to time. He often might get an assistant to help continue the lecture. How did the students react to this dozing oof? They did not phone an official. Instead, they just laughed it off. The funny incident cheered them up and they liked the professor even more. He had brought his students unintended joy!

Incidently, there was also a student who kept on coming to his lecture hall and falling asleep just before his lecture began. This went on for a few weeks. The professor decided to wake him up and informed him 'Why are you always sleeping through the physics lecture? 

'The student was shocked and answered, 'I have been coming to the wrong lecture. I should be in the maths     lecture hall!' and he flew out in panic!

The physics professor's dozing off never prevented him from doing a diligent job. They did not put him on a 'Don't Hire List'. The man is a genius and not that many people want to return to the Soviet era of informers lurking everywhere no matter what newspapers might suggest.

Evidently, the Chicago school officials have lost practical common sense not to mention logic.

Instead of analyzing and helping teachers, they rush into 'discipline and punish'.

By the way, as a teacher of English as a foreign language, I often simulate falling asleep to provoke the students into speaking more practical English. They learn to shout 'Waken up Stephen! You must remember. Don't forget we have an English lesson!' 

They quickly learn new words, such as 'forget'  and 'remember' and 'lazy'. So falling asleep in the classroom has its uses.

1 comment:

  1. From: Mr. Jan Peczkis

    Now-Fully-Corrected Sleep Apnea Case

    Amazing! I never expected my plight to attract international attention.

    However, it is hardly surprising that teachers falling asleep in class are not a rare occurrence. Many examples, filmed by children and teens, can be found on You Tube ( In addition, after having been accused of falling asleep in class, and informing those I worked with that I could be fired at any time, Chicago Public School children and office staff told me of teachers falling asleep in class and nobody telling on them.

    The incident involving me was quite prosaic. I was not interacting with the children. I had been sent to substitute teach in a pre-kindergarten class in which there were two assistants. They did all the work with the young children, and had me sit off to the side. I was sitting on a sofa-chair, for hours at a time, with nothing to do. Worse yet, the classroom was located in a poorly-lit basement, with a small window, and that on a gloomy day. (Oddly enough, I was sent back to the same school the next day, by the Sub Center, and the school administration did not refuse my services, or even say anything.)

    I had no idea that I was supposedly falling asleep, repeatedly, until a certified letter, detailing the complaint by an assistant principal, arrived six weeks later. Although a lawyer later informed me that the school staff did nothing illegal, I was surprised that I had not been called into the office and been told point-blank what was going on. [Had I known, I would have excused myself from the assignment, called my wife to pick me up, and had her drive me straight to the doctor for evaluation. What if this had been something that required immediate medical attention?]

    The incident occurred March 12, 2012, the hearing (Investigatory Conference) took place May 4, 2012, and the letter of termination was not sent by Chicago Public Schools until June 12, 2012 (coincidentally or not, at the very end of the school year). Note that the entire process took three months, and I was substitute teaching all this time without any further allegations of me falling asleep in class.

    My after-the-termination diagnosis, and correction, of sleep apnea, needs clarification. Sleep apnea is not something that can be diagnosed at home or in an office visit to a doctor. It requires an expensive, overnight evaluation in a sleep lab.

    As for the DNH (Do Not Hire), actually Do Not Rehire, policy of Chicago Public Schools, it is draconian. At one time, only teachers fired for criminal acts, or the like, were banned from working for CPS (Chicago Public Schools) for life. Now anyone who is terminated gets slapped with a DNH designation on his/her file.