Back in the good old days—hard even to remember—when you got students in the classroom they were pretty much prisoners. For the hour and an half or so that you had them—as a teacher—they had no contact with the outside world. Back then the rooms in which I taught had those old fashioned clocks on the wall. I don’t know what happened. They just disappeared at some point.
Now all the students have cell phones, so they can check the time on those accurate by satellite to the atomic minute, I guess. They also have palm pilots and Ipods or other listening devices. They also bring laptop computers. They are hardly prisoners now; they can access the “outside world” at least in digital form pretty easily. I, the teacher, am still analog.
They hold those things in their hands. I don’t know what they are doing with them. The guy over there with his laptop open could be watching porn or the Simpsons over the internet for all I know. Or who knows, they could be listening on their Ipods to a lecture they missed that morning because many professors are now posting their lectures to sites that can be downloaded with an Ipod. Most of the time, the students are pretty polite with these things. The phones hardly ever go off anymore.
But my 3 o’clock class isn’t always so polite. Over in the left hand corner of the room—way away from me—a group of students have collected in the back. These pull out their devices—whatever the heck they are–quite a bit in class, sometimes while I am talking. What am I supposed to do? Well, I use common tactics. If they are in groups and using their devices, I walk over to the group and usually they see me coming and stop using their devices. Or I will call on a person using a device and ask them a question. That usually leads also to the end of device usage for a while.
I have to say device usage while I am talking tends to irritate me. But I have gotten sort of used to being ignored over the years. I got over my issues with the sleeping student years ago, clear back in the 80’s. One woman starting falling asleep; she was a pretty good student and also on the rowing team. So she would be up at like 5 in the morning to go up to this big lake back behind the hills and row her ass off for like three hours.
So one day when she was going off to sleep and even snorting a little bit in a sort of pre-snore way, I went over to her and said, without anger (somehow I managed that), that she needed rest that trying to sleep in a classroom would not really be restorative, and that she should go to her dorm room and take a nap. She said she was fine, and that she didn’t live in the dorm. After that she never went to sleep in class. Of course, she missed a few classes, maybe to take a nap in her overpriced apartment in IV.
In any case, one of the young women in the device using corner is quite egregiously using her device while I am talking, and I say, with amazing tranquility, “Rochelle. What you are doing there; well that’s just fine. But please don’t let me see you doing it, ok? Because when I happen to notice it—and I notice about everything—it disturbs the flow of my consciousness and sometimes I forget what I am trying to say.” And then she, with no sign of embarrassment, puts away her device, and what do you know pulls the Ipod plugs out of her ears—which I didn’t even know were there, because they were hidden by her hair.
And the rest of the time, I don’t remember seeing a single student using his or her device.