Thursday, August 30, 2007

Early semester smackdowns

Maybe it’s me, or maybe it’s the hot weather, or maybe. . .

The semester is all of two weeks along, and already I am giving curmudgeonly reminders to LEAVE THE CELL PHONES ALONE.

My standard class policy is any behavior that detracts from the classroom—here, you can read it for yourself. . .

Classroom Behavior: During our class time, we should show mutual
respect for each other and for the instruction presented. Successful learning and dialogue can occur where all participants exhibit civilized behavior. The antithesis of civilized behavior is rude behavior. It affects everyone and affects the quality of our class time together. Among examples of rude behavior are the following:

-- persistent tardiness;
-- talking and chatter unrelated to the discussion at hand;
-- talking while someone else has the floor;
-- sleeping in class;
-- any activity that distracts from learning;
-- ANYTHING involving cell phones except turning them off while in class.
Sadly, this list of what constitutes uncivilized behavior has grown over the years. In my earlier versions of the syllabus, I didn’t specify what examples of rude behavior were. And then I had a student who slept in class. Admittedly, it was an 8 a.m. class, and he may even have worked all night. But when he came to class, he would sprawl across his desk, and sleep. Fine. Well, not really—but I initially thought it was a one-time thing. But he slept the next day too. And this time, his open text book tumbled to the floor with a bang, and woke him up. First, I made an observation to the effect of Nice of you to join us. Then I spoke with him at the end of class. You have to stay awake, I said. I know, he admitted sheepishly. The next day, he dropped the class.

While cell phones were around when I resumed teaching in 2002, they weren’t disruptive at first. If a cell phone merrily sprang to life, jangling who-knows-what “tune,” I would make fun of it, and remind the student to silence the ringer.

And then text messaging became ubiquitous. Or should I say—txt msg? (Certainly explains the woeful spelling I see!) So, two years ago, I inserted the “ANYTHING involving cell phones” line. And I laid the smackdown on touching a cell phone during an exam. My rule? You touch a cell phone during an exam, and you are out of the class for that day, and the exam is forfeited.

Usually, I get to make these dire reminders more than half way into a semester. Not this year. During the second class, a student sat in the second row in front, and TEXT MESSAGED who knows? So, I just looked at her, called her by name, and said—PUT THE PHONE AWAY. This interchange occurred after another student had finished a quiz, then got up, handed me a note and walked out of class. Her note said she had to go home for “an emergency.” I didn’t see her with her phone, but I assume she too got a text message. I talked to her today, and told her to knock it off.

Folks, I really do try to keep my sense of humor where teaching is concerned, as it is the one absolute essential tool to survival. But, two weeks into class—grrrrr! Fume, fume. Could be a long semester.


Anonymous said...

"Man-O-Days" Donna! I could never have taught under such conditions. Better volunteer for an overseas year of VS teaching at a Secondary School (or even an overseas University). I can't wait to see what other comments you receive to this one.
Love, Father "C"

Anvilcloud said...

I never thought college teachers ever have problems. I assume that you still can excuse kids when their actions are not appropriate without having to jump through bureaucratic hoops?

Jean said...

Better to lay it out right away and be tough. I probably couldn't teach! Too frustrating.

Grace, Every Day said...

Bring the hammer down. This drives me crazy...and yet, I am guilty at times. I try to be discreet, but in CERTAIN situations (a conference I was in a few weeks ago, for example), I keep my phone on silent and check it occasionally, because my kids were home alone.

I have sent my kids txtmsgs at the end of the school day (assuming they will turn their phones on the minute the bell ringts), telling them to ride the bus home (or wait for me, etc.) To my surprise, they will, at times, txt me back - immediately - during school. I only hope they get busted by the teachers if they are breaking the rules.

It's a different world, isn't it?

Mary said...

Cell phones need to be turned OFF. You have a right to be PO'd. You are in charge of your class and make the rules. Oh, my feathers are ruffled.

You are in a community college, right? I am, too. Do the guys show up with their pants below their butt crack and do the girls wear spaghetti straps in class?

I was in a conference room meeting today with seven people. The door was closed...until a young male student opened it (pants hanging off butt) and exclaimed, "Does anyone know where Mr. Chesser is?" The kid was a flake but we helped him anyway. Odd, very odd.

Hang in there, Donna. It's early and they will soon learn who is boss.

KGMom said...

Father C--you were a good teacher, whether you could handle today's classrooms or not.

AC--of course college teachers have problems--we have students, don't we?

Jean--I agree; be up front & start things off right!

Grace--I am sure you can be forgiven for worrying about your kids. The texting my students are doing has nothing to do with worried parents!

Mary--LOL. No, I have no students with low slung pants, but I do have young women scantily dressed. I do wonder how they "got out of the house" in the morning.

RuthieJ said...

Wow, Donna, what a story! These people are paying to attend school, right? And most of them are adults (or close to adulthood)? I wonder where along the line they learned this type of behavior was OK....

....and I'm also wondering if you were a fan of The Rock when he "laid the smackdown" on opponents during his World Wrestling Federation days? ;-)

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Perhaps, cell phones could be deposited in a box by the door to be retrieved upon exiting.

Our local hotel has a sign up saying "leave your rifles and hunting knives in your trucks before entering."

There is some kind of parallel in these instances.

Climenheise said...

Curmudgeonly? You? Never! I can't imagine it -- and I've had 57 years trying to! Well, maybe I can see a bit of the Climenhaga curmudgeon gene showing. At our school we have had to introduce paragraphs in our college syllabi about not using electronics inappropriately -- including computers. Students are chatting away to each other, or to who knows whom, through the wireless internet on their computer. Google chat is good, but not in the classroom! It is curious how in one school all students may be issued a computer to use in class, while in another computers etc. are banned from the classroom.

So far Lois and I have been cell phone Luddites. So have V and N. We'll see how long it lasts. But even if cells become as necessary to daily life as [whatever you can think of], not in the classroom please!

You should do a follow up post on the effect of electronics on learning. How does someone who is used to paying attention to three things at once pay close enough attention to Wordsworth to understand whatever was going on behind his references to the death of Mary?

Climenheise said...

P.S.: Go Penn State!

Cathy said...

Bad manners and cheating would make it tough to maintain a sense of humor. I can't imagine the challenges teachers face today. I'm glad you've nipped this business in the bud. (or at least gave it a good pruning)

I'm rather impressed that your brother has managed without a cell phone, thus far. Wow.

KGMom said...

RuthiJ--I confess to NOT being a fan of the Rock, but of appropriating language whatever its origins! And who knows where these students learned their behaviors?!

Tossing Pebbles--I really had to laugh at the "leave your rifles and hunting knives in your trucks" injunction. I certainly hope none of these students has either rifles or knives! But a box to collect cell phones in--hhhmmmmm!!

Daryl--we do have classes where Eng comp is taught with the use of computers (not on-line courses but ones with computers right in class). I don't know if there are instances of "inappropriate" use or not.
Does Vaughn encounter similar problems, I wonder?
No cell phones in your family? Wow.
And Go PSU!

Cathy--yes, cell phone use at wrong times is the height of bad manners. And I would not have thought of using cell phones texting for cheating, but students have.

KGMom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KGMom said...

Prior comment was NOT a nasty comment by student or anyone--it was Blogger deciding to DOUBLE print my long response to your comments. I figured you didn't need to read it twice.

Laurie said...

It frustrates me when people talk on their cells in meetings. It is just rude.

Ginnie said...

You have my deepest condolences !!
I could not be a teacher and have a high regard for those who can.

Beverly said...

Hi, I left a comment on your brother's blog when I read his "Go, Penn State" in your comments. He wrote me back and said that you were the fan.

I don't know when I first came across you blog, but I marked it to come back to, and I have lurked from time to time. I'm always interested in people who were m.k.'s. I'm assuming that's what you were. I had the privilege of teaching missionary kids in Haiti years ago, and I cherish those memories and kids now, many of whom are serving in various fields now.

dguzman said...

I would definitely be a cell-phone nazi if I were still teaching; it drives me nuts now when fellow students in my classes (getting another degree now at age 42) don't turn off ringers, text people during class, etc. The other day my calc teacher said that if he heard a cellphone going off or texting or whatever, he'd assume the person was cheating and give him/her an F for the class! Students everywhere dived for their phones! Hurray!