Borrow this tip from Army training to keep students alert

The next time a student starts to doze off in your class, try this motivational technique used in the military.

Elvis was in the Army. So were my father and grandfather. And for a single tour of National Guard duty, so was I. (Scary thought, huh?) It was a great learning experience, and here’s one of the lessons I never forgot. I tell this story in class any time I notice one of my students getting a little bleary-eyed.

If the sergeant catches you sleeping in class
A good soldier gets sleep whenever he or she can, but never in class. I went through basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where they specialized in training field artillery units. You can’t afford to make mistakes in field artillery—I know I hate it when the wrong thing gets blown up—so you must pay close attention during classroom instruction.

One of our instructors had a strict policy of no sleeping, no dozing, and no thinking about sleeping or dozing in his class. If you were caught sleeping, this sergeant made you stand in the back of the room holding an artillery round.

I’m not talking about Barney Fife’s bullet here. You stood holding one of the biggest artillery rounds the Army makes. I don’t remember the specifics, but it was heavy.

What this tip means to trainers
Now, I realize that most of you never have anyone dozing off in your classes because you’re such engaging speakers and entertaining instructors, right? But if, from time to time, the act of absorbing technical material starts to weigh down the eyelids of your students, tell them this story about Army training. Then threaten to make sleepyheads stand in the back holding a monitor!
Do you have a favorite tip or story about people sleeping in class? If so, please post a comment below or follow this link to send me a note.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox