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Big Kids

26th Aug 2021

This teacher allows his students to fall asleep in class, for good reason

Laura Grainger

“I say this because sometimes, as teachers, our tests are not as important as our student’s personal life.”

For most teachers, having a student doze off at their desk is a big no-no that might lead to punishment.

Yet one teacher in the US went viral for a video encouraging teachers to let their students fall asleep.

TikTok user Brandon Holeman (@bcholeman), who used to teach middle schoolers (usually aged between 11 and 13), spoke on the importance of having empathy for students who doze off.

“Sometimes, the nicest thing a teacher can do for a student is let them come in, lay their head down, and go to sleep,” he said.

“I’ve got a student who came into class today, and he was visibly upset, you could tell something was wrong.”

Before the class began, one of the student’s friends approached the teacher to tell him to take it easy on him as he had just lost his grandfather.

When Brandon went to hand out a class test to each student, he left a note on the grieving boy’s copy that said: ‘I’m sorry for your loss. I’m praying for you. You already have a 100 on this test. Don’t even worry about it, just turn it in.’

“I don’t say this to brag, and I don’t say this to build myself up,” Brandon continued. “I say this because sometimes, as teachers, our tests are not as important as our student’s personal life. And we all need to recognise that, students and teachers both.”

The video, originally posted in February 2020 but recently recirculated, has amassed over 7.4 million likes and 89.2K comments full of praise for the former teacher.

@bcholemanThis is for all the teachers and students out there. Life can hit hard, and we all need some grace. #teacher #middleschool #fyp #foryou #studyhacks

♬ original sound – vision wise

Dr. Regine Muradian, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, helped start Team Project RISE, a programme that helps train American educators to empathise with students struggling from mental health issues throughout the pandemic. She says it’s important teachers know how to recognise and respond to pupils who aren’t coping.

“Teachers are like first responders, and they need to know what to do [in difficult situations],” she tells “The sleep is just a fraction of other things happening.”

Karen Aronian, Ed.D., a New York-based parenting and education expert, says that a balance is needed.

“They’re there to get information, lessons, and learn,” she acknowledges to However, she doesn’t think punishing sleepiness is the way to go about solving the issue.

Instead, she says teachers should speak with the student, a parent, and maybe the school counsellor so that the root cause of the child’s sleep issues can be tackled.

“When you see that behavior, you want to come at it with compassion and empathy,” she adds. “That’s how you’re going to build communication, connection, and performance.”

Both experts say it’s good for parents and teachers to be aware of the possible reasons behind a student sleeping in class before dismissing them as lazy or irresponsible.

According to them, these reasons include:

  • Insomnia
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Disruption to their routine
  • Difficulty with a transition, such as moving house, changing schools, or parents breaking up
  • Struggles with time-management, particularly at night
  • Too much screen time before bed

It’s also important to note that these issues can combine. For example, a person’s anxiety might cause insomnia, while a person’s depression might lead them to spend too long glued to their screen.

Treating a kid with empathy before dismissing their behaviour as that of a bad student will create a more positive school experience for them, and will ensure that any mental or domestic difficulties they may be dealing with is registered.