Falling Asleep in Public

in the U.S.

The other day someone online made a post featuring this picture of Princess Diana falling asleep at a public event

and it really resonated with me.

In third grade, there was a kid in my class who would always fall asleep during the time when our teacher, Mr. H, would read aloud to us. He would always loudly call him out to wake him up and sometimes he even made him stand up while he read (we would all be sitting down on the floor). His reasoning for this was that you can’t fall asleep when you are standing up.

In fourth grade, my very religious teacher would not let kids sit at their desks with their heads leaning on their palms because he said it told him that they [the student] were bored (or disinterested) and that was rude or something.

I guess that is a common thing to do if you are day-dreaming but it’s also something a lot of people do when tired.

In middle school there was this kid in my class, who had been held back a year (or maybe just had to redo this one class) and he would always have his head down on his desk and fall asleep. And I think everyone assumed he was just lazy and stayed up late playing video games or doing other future delinquent activities. Sometimes the teacher would call on him to answer a question that he obviously didn’t know the answer to, just to make a point that she knew he had fallen asleep.

In high school when I started falling asleep in classes, I was generally mortified. I think a lot of my peers thought it was funny (or maybe weird) that I, the innocent, straight A student, was falling asleep in class. For the most part, none of my teachers said anything, I think because I still maintained my high grades. There was one time when I was in my Honors Chem class, and one of my friends had to tap me on the head (she sat behind me) to wake me up and I was so startled and upset to see everyone, including the teacher, staring at me. I think that teacher actually said something to the class about not commenting on it and not wanting to embarrass me, but I was embarrassed and the memory lives vividly on.

However, I did have one teacher in high school who was very concerned when I started falling asleep in her class. And that was because she told me that when she was in high school she was always tired, and would nap whenever and wherever she could because she worked so much. She even got a senior superlative related to this (sleeping/napping the most or something like that).

So when I, someone who never had fallen asleep in class, who was hard-working, attentive, and polite (and whatever the opposite of the negative stereotypes we have about people who fall asleep in class are) was consistently struggling to keep her eyes open, she asked me directly, privately, with genuine concern, if everything was okay with me, with life… if I was stressed, if I was overdoing anything, if there was something going on.

And thinking about that now makes me want to cry.

I remember back then I always felt embarrassed, sometimes resentful whenever someone brought up how sleepy I was, but now I kind of can’t believe more teachers didn’t bring it up to me.

Imagine there’s an eight-year old kid who’s constantly falling asleep in class and instead of asking, “are you okay?” you get annoyed and make him stand up while every one of his peers is sat down next to him on the carpet.

Of course, maybe Mr. H did talk to that student and his family, but it still seems like a punishment rather than a solution to the issue. And like, I get it, it’s not a teacher’s job to investigate every student’s home life, but regardless, what he did seems…degrading to me now.

…idk…just trying to capture some of my thoughts and feelings and lived experiences. May revisit.