Some people will give me their best Darwinian argument: Students who honestly pay attention will do well on their tests and papers and end up doing better in life then those who are screwing around with their cell phones in class, so let the texters text and grow up to be ditch-diggers. I’m sorry, but I just can’t buy into that argument: Not at the college level and not at the high school or middle school levels either. And my reasons only partially have to do with concern over future skills. I’m genuinely concerned with civility and respect: Two other important values Americans seem to be eagerly flushing down the toilet….
This entry is courtesy of my dear friend, former high school teacher turned full-time parent, Betsy Whitehouse. If you’d like to pipe in about a topic pertaining to parenting or education (or a place where these world’s collide), please feel free to let me know! I’m glad to shut up from time to time!
I never said boo to my parents. When they told me to do something, I may have slumped my shoulders, but it never occurred to me to reply. I do not mean I wanted to object but showed restraint and held my tongue instead; I mean, the thought of disobeying a parental command never floated across my synapses. How has this tradition not been repeated?
When I ask my son, age 11, to put down his book and come to dinner, I first get silence.
I say, “Please come to the table,” and then I get, “Just a sec, Mom.”
Ungrateful child: “I’m coming!” Then silence, followed by no movement from the couch.
Some people will no doubt snicker as they read these words because the child I’m complaining about is reading and not playing video games or texting friends or screwing around on Facebook, but my frustration level is the same, and my dinner is congealing. My mother would whistle up the stairs at me like a dog, and I’d come running.
Why are kids different this generation?
Because it takes work to give kids consequences. We often think that the grounding or the taking away of the hand-held video-game or the cell phone is uncomfortable enough to be a deterrent for the child, but really, it’s uncomfortable for us. We want to teach our kids the right way to live, but how far out of our way are we willing to go? Not far enough. We are slow to react to bad behavior because it’s disappointing for dad to come home to a child who’s unavailable, banished to her room; because – without a cellphone – it’s inconvenient for us to be unable to call the kid to tell him you’ll be late at pick-up; and, let’s be honest, it can be distracting to have one’s pre-teen PSP-less and yammering while you’re trying to clean, cook, manage. Setting consistent limits for our kids means parents have to suffer the consequences, too. We have to be willing to live with, and be strong with, whatever punishment we mete out.
I never really wanted to turn into my mom; maybe I could just have that one, confident, in-charge, diligent piece of her.
As if The Mosquito Ringtone isn’t enough (see a few blogs back: 5/22/10), teachers also have to worry about making sure students aren’t texting in class. At Monroe Community College, once in a while, I’ve seen students swishing around in their backpacks and purses for extended periods of time. I usually approach these students and quietly tell them to turn off their cell phones. I want my students to know that I notice what they are doing, that their behavior matters to me.
In “How to Successfully Text During Class: Using Your Purse,” Laura Mae instructs students on how they can master stealth-mode texting. She writes:
First, [get a big floppy purse]. Instead of holding your purse in your lap, try laying it sideways on your desk. Keep the opening … facing toward you. Place your phone near the opening. … Your teacher won’t be able to … see your phone … because he/she will be at his/her desk. So you’re good there. If they suspect something and get up to walk around, casually, without looking, push your cellular device back into your purse with your finger just enough so you’re [sic] phone is covered.
If you have a Qwerty keyboard, you can text, but not as easily as if you have an original keypad. If you do have an original keypad, … memorize how many times you need to press each button for the desired letter. I believe every phone has that little bump in the number 5, so that should be easy to navigate to the letters if you find it. Example: While your [sic] not looking, move your finger to the number five. Move up one key. Press three times. Wait a few seconds. Press once. Move back to the center. Move down one key. Press once. I just spelled “cat.”
The dozens of grammar errors in Laura Mae’s article make it clear to me that Laura Mae has not been listening to her instructors for a while. How could she possibly be paying attention when her brain is expending so much energy on composing blind messages as well as thinking about where she has to place her fingers and how many times she has to tap-tap-tap in order to send her messages so that they will be coherent upon receipt? Or maybe it isn’t so much that she isn’t paying attention, but that she seems to care more so much more about her social life than fine-tuning or editing her ideas, important skills which she will need to draw upon in the future.
The pervasiveness of text-messaging in class poses problems for teachers, particularly in the area of test security, as students can send answers or hints to fellow students via cell phones, destroying the integrity of an entire test with a few keystrokes. Obviously, cheating damages classroom culture, but this is not really the main issue in my essay driven classroom. More annoying is the fact that instruction is interrupted when someone is caught texting. Then the problem extends beyond breaking the rules and not paying attention because instructors have to stop teaching to handle the situation, disrupting the learning environment, wasting time and tuition.
Some people will give me their best Darwinian argument: Students who honestly pay attention will do well on their tests and papers and end up doing better in life then those who are screwing around with their cell phones in class, so let the texters text and grow up to be ditch-diggers. I’m sorry, but I just can’t buy into that argument: Not at the college level and not at the high school or middle school levels either. And my reasons only partially have to do with concern over future skills. I’m genuinely concerned with civility and respect: Two other important values Americans seem to be eagerly flushing down the toilet.
Is it really so much to ask to turn off the technology and respectfully tune-in to and engage with other humans for 50 minutes?