Teacher Didn’t Punish Girl Caught Napping in Class, His Response Has the Internet Talking

July 7, 2019 Updated: July 14, 2019

Falling asleep in class has historically ranked high on the universal list of things not to do in class. It could easily earn you extra homework, maybe detention, or even a damning record at the end of the academic year.

However, one high school English teacher from Cheney, Washington, raised controversy (and a lot of support to boot) after his very unusual response to a student who fell asleep in his class. Monte Syrie had a refreshing perspective on his student’s mid-lesson cat nap, and, perhaps most importantly, he didn’t take it personally.

Sharing his thoughts in a revealing Twitter thread, Syrie explained to the masses why he didn’t administer a strict punishment to his student Meg after her awkwardly  timed visit to the land of nod. The exhausted student slept through an in-class essay assignment. But in Syrie’s own words: “I didn’t beat her up about it.”

“Meg fell asleep in class yesterday,” Syrie began. “I let her. I didn’t take it personally.” The unusually sympathetic teacher, who had clearly taken the time to get to know his students, their family backgrounds, and their lives outside of the classroom, explained why his sympathy outweighed his desire to reprimand the sleeping teen.

“She has zero-hour math, farm-girl chores, state-qualifying 4X400 fatigue, adolescent angst, and various other things to deal with,” he went on. “My class is only a part of her life, not her life.”

Syrie recognized that his student had not “used her time wisely,” and as a result, didn’t submit her work on time. But without being prompted, Meg later completed and emailed her essay to Syrie by 9 p.m. on the very same day. Surely that’s testament to the loyalty and diligence Syrie had engendered in his students simply by virtue of respecting them and their needs.

Even if those needs included a nap.

Meg, in that moment, represented the plight of teenage students at large, and Syrie knew it. The American Psychological Association’s 2015 “Stress in America” survey focused on stress in teenagers, and the results were alarming. According to Fox News, the survey revealed that 27 percent of teenagers reported feeling “extreme stress” during the school year, compared to 20 percent of adults.

“They’re kids,” Syrie posted, expounding his rationale on his Twitter thread, “kids are having to grow up way too fast and are having way too much pressure put on them, in and out of school.” But Syrie’s controversial lenience doesn’t come at the expense of great education. Improving the learning experience for his students remains at the very top of Syrie’s list of priorities.

It’s true that had she taken the opportunity to catch 40 winks in another teacher’s classroom. Meg may well have been given a failing grade for her non-submitted essay. “But she wasn’t in a different room,” Syrie stated, firmly. “She was in my room.”

“I can’t control the world outside,” he continued. “But I can give her a break.” The industrious teacher has been on a mission to turn traditional teaching methods on their head for some time in the name of revolutionizing the learning process for teens in the American education system. He calls it “Project 180.”

Syrie’s mission statement? “To change education by challenging the status quo, questioning convention, and discovering new paths to learning.”

“We are not working in factories,” he said, speaking to Upworthy. “When our young humans face the inevitable pressures of growing up, we need to respond with empathy.”