What I Learned at Naptime

What was I thinking?

Obviously I wasn’t when I allowed my son to choose our pre-nap reading material.

A toy catalog? Seriously? What parent that wants their child to nap makes this type of error in judgement? My son’s mind was now hyper-stimulated!

We did eventually segue to Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, but by then I think it was too late. He next had to find his Spiderman toys and engage in some pretend play for a little while. AIl the while I laid as motionless and as silently as I could, hoping that his brain would eventually quiet itself. And it did. He is three and he was tired.


image courtesy of Hearth Song Holiday 2014 Catalog

But then it hit me!

Is this what we are doing to our students every day? They have the catalogs. They know what is out there. So at home, in between classes, or maybe even during class, our students are thinking about their catalogs. They are circling what they want and they are making their wish lists. Their brains are activated and they are coming to us primed and ready to go.

And then what we do?

We put them to sleep. Figuratively and sometimes literally. Just like I did with my son earlier today. I showed him everything that was possible and then I took it away. Expecting him to be able to slow his brain down. Just like that. Impossible for a three-year old and impossible for our students.

It is too late. The cat is out of the bag. Our students know what is out there and they know how to use it. Oftentimes better than us. They have already seen the catalogs.


image courtesy of http://syntech.co.za/apple-products/

So when we show up with the same lesson plan as last year’s teacher, they start to yawn.

And when we pass out the practice worksheets that require filling in a blank, they begin to drift.

Finally, by the time they have to show us what they have learned it’s too late. They saw us passing out the same exact thing to everybody and they fell fast asleep.

Because I am writing this does that mean that I have not been guilty of all of the above? Absolutely not! In fact, I am certain that I am still guilty of not pushing myself enough. I need to spend more time figuring out how to make school work better for the kids that I serve and less time thinking of ways to make it work better for me. This point was made eloquently and passionately by Eric Sheninger in his TEDx BurnsvilleED talk below titled Schools That Work For Kids. If you have not already watched it I suggest that you do as soon as possible.

And a word of advice to parents of toddlers.

If you need some good pre-nap reading material I highly recommend Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

Save the toy catalog for when they wake up. You’ll be glad you did!





  1. Another great post Jon. Not only students, but how many teachers have seen the catalogue and have their hands tied from above by standards and outside expectations. I came across an interesting video to go with Eric’s great TED Talk which actually gave the students the ‘catalogue’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMxqEkg3wQ0 Finish on a Fullan quote I read the other day: “We should do less of spending money on assessment detached from designing learning and more of creating learning experiences that are irresistibly engaging.”

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