Semesters, Cell Phones and Ghosts

ghost

Courtesy: http://www.indiewire.com/2017/03/a-ghost-story-trailer-david-lowery-rooney-mara-casey-affleck-1201796652/

It’s grading time, and I mean HEAVY-DUTY, all-day, into the wee-hours grading. It’s the most frustrating, anger-provoking thing I do as a teacher.  It is all these things because the more papers I read, the more I think I have been a phantom standing unseen in front of my classes, and that the volumes of resource materials I have posted must mysteriously disappear from student view somewhere in the course of the course.

Yes, I know. I am generalizing. I do have those consistently stellar students who make it all worthwhile. I also have those surprise students who manage to emerge from the back of the pack and surge forth to finish in the top percent. These students also make it all worthwhile.

But the discouraging part arises from an increasingly disengaged age group who wants to coast along the surface while expecting everything to be handed to them. Give them a book and most say, “What’s this?” Give them a cell phone and they are off and running in the opposite direction from the finish line. It’s called. “what is social media doing to our educational systems, our students, and ultimately, our culture?”

Consider: the average teen sends and receives a median of 50 texts per day, while 3 out of 10 deal with 100 every day.  Also, according to William Tatum, a research neurologist at the Mayo Clinic, the intensity and frequency of texting actually alters brain waves, partly because of the high degree of concentration texting requires.

My students admit to feeling terrible anxiety if they don’t have their cell phone next to them on their desks during class, and though I catch them looking at the phones periodically throughout class, most are never outright rude and actually start texting.

Do I have consequences for cell-phone usage? Yes. Actually, I include a category called “Professionalism” in my grading rubric which includes all those immeasurable things such as respect, teamwork, and earnestness, and that is precisely where cell phone use and abuse fits in.  For those abusers, I have a cozy little chat during the semester and tell them just how much their choice of using their phone in class will lower their grade, a message they don’t like to hear.

I don’t (necessarily) blame texting and social media for this new breed of college student, but it sure makes sense that their immersion in a cyber-cell world thwarts attention paid to class, coursework, and assignments and makes one professor consider coming to class covered in a white sheet.