Break Every Yoke

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 13 2013


Thoughts to flesh out at some point, maybe:


I have a couple students who are sleepy every single class period. They’re not being defiant; they simply can’t stay awake for more than fifteen minutes at a time, and I don’t know why. The standard response to my probing is, “I’m just tired, mister.” What worries me most is that they don’t grasp the abnormality of such lethargy, or the detrimental effect it’s having on their academic performance. I’ve tried speaking to their other teachers, holding one-on-one conferences, and calling home, to no avail. It’s baffling, and I’m not sure what else I can do.

Of course, I’m hardly one to talk—and not just because I was equally sleepy in high school. Reading Psalm 13 this morning, I was struck by King David’s petition that God “light up [his] eyes, lest [he] sleep the sleep of death.” If David, a faithful servant of the Lord and predecessor to Jesus Christ Himself, worried about being spiritually asleep without realizing it, it probably behooves me to attend to the consciousness of my own soul. Luckily for me, God possesses a powerful weapon for zapping me awake—one my classroom arsenal lacks, probably for the best (hah)—and that’s pain.


According to the American School Counselor Association, the recommended ratio of students to school counselors is 250:1. This already sounds high to me, but as you might guess, the actual ratio in most states is even higher (sometimes by a factor of three). As a result, some students complete four years of high school without seeing their counselor even once. This seems like an enormously problematic aspect of the achievement gap, at least at the secondary level, yet I’ve never once heard policymakers or education reformers talk about it. I wonder why.


I once heard a sermon about how it’s always easier to connect the dots backward than to connect them forward. That is, at any given stage in life, it’s a straightforward exercise to appraise how even seemingly unrelated events and circumstances in the past brought you there. On the other hand, it’s usually not as simple to figure out how the next phase of life fits into the big picture. I’m at a point where it’s very clear to me how God leveraged my prior experiences to make me a decent teacher and could continue to use me in the classroom, yet inexplicably, I feel more drawn toward individual mentoring, college access work, and possibly ministry down the line. I don’t know where He is leading me, and it’s both exciting and terrifying to be so uncertain about the future.

3 Responses

  1. Give them a place in the classroom where they can stand up while you teach or while they work. It’s very hard to fall asleep standing.

    • This is so simple, yet so brilliant. Thanks!

  2. I like to encourage teachers to give these students task or responsibilities in the class. Task such as, hand out materials, collect assignments, be an assistant, etc. Chances are if you can keep them active, they will stay awake.

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New city, same vision

Rhode Island
High School

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