People sitting in a class, particularly one taught by an unengaging instructor or focused on material of no interest or particular relevance to the student, can be unbelievable boring and hard to stay awake for by both kids in school and adults at work.
Yet, if we give into the natural proclivity to fall asleep, students frequently get in trouble (or humiliated in front of their peers by the offended teacher) and adults may be noticed being inattentive by their managers. It doesn’t seem to matter that those managers are paying more attention to their employees’ reactions and participation than they are to the instruction itself.
In any of these situations, it is a good idea to remain awake and to at least appear to be fully attending to the material being presented.
Many years ago, as a childhood frequenter of Joke Shops in downtown Boston, I remember glasses that were supposed to make it appear that your eyes were wide open when, in fact, you were asleep. They did not look especially realistic or convincing even as a kid. But, they were funny.
Until technology comes up with a version of these fake open eye glasses, the student subject to nodding off for whatever reason, needs do something else to avoid finding themselves in the embarrassing position of being caught falling asleep in a class, meeting or training.
Having been on both sides of the room as both child and adult, I offer the following tips having used and seen them each being used with some success.
Here are just a few that many people have found to be useful:
1. Pinch one’s self under the desk or table. A sharp moment of discomfort will work for most people for a while. I have met people for whom a self-administered subtly pinch is not sufficient. They actually stick themselves in the hand or thigh, lightly of course, with a push pin! Pain, even in mild doses, has a wakeful effect.
2. Pretend to be avidly taking notes while you work at composing a brief essay or poem about having to sit through this schlock. Teachers/instructors foolishly tend to believe that when students/attendees are writing, that they are listening to them and recoding their pearls of wisdom. You can reinforce this ego-driven misperception by making it a point to glance up at the teacher every so often.
3. When you feel on the verge of nodding off, try doing the deliberately counter-intuitive thing and raise your hand. The fact that you have not been listening and are about to doze off does not matter.
When called upon, simply say something like, “Could you repeat that for me please? I want to be sure I understood it correctly.” This is a double-dip deception. Firstly, it creates the impression that you have been listening while forcing yourself into a wakeful state while, concurrently, making the teacher/instructor feel that you think what they are saying is important enough to warrant repeating! Win-win.
These measures are necessitated by a few unfortunate realities that include 1) All teachers are not any good at it, 2) All material taught does not have useful application to everyone required to attend the class or training, and 3) Sitting still and paying focused attention for hours on end is simply unrealistic for many people.
When in doubt if there is no way out, consider faking it.