Teaching as an adjunct can be a lot of fun. It is also challenging. As I have encountered a number of situations, I realize such a blog can be helpful, both to me and to others.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I Hate Cell Phones!

In yesterday’s post, I talked about needing to address some things in my syllabus that occurred this past semester ( Click Here to see that post ) . First and foremost on the list is cell phone usage. After seeing what took place this past semester, I am left to ponder what we ever did before these devices came out. For me, the biggest challenge is the fact that cell phones are no longer used just for phone calls.

I tell my students that cell phones should be on vibrate, or turned off, during class. I tell them that if there cell phone goes off during a student’s speech, they will lose points on their speech. I tell them that despite saying this in every class, every semester, by the end of the course, someone’s cell phone has gone off during a speech (true again this semester). I tell them that I understand emergencies do arise and if the cell phone vibrates and it is an important call, they need to take it out in the hall. Enough said, right? WRONG!!!!!!

First of all, my students don’t seem to understand that they should not be using the cell phone at all during class. They think that it is okay to text message other people, since they are not talking and thus not distracting the class. They do not consider the buzzing noise the phone makes when a message is sent or received. Moreover, they do not consider the ethics and importance of actually paying attention in class. Worse yet, I have students who text message people while other students are giving speeches (and I discuss the importance of ethical listening in class).

When students give speeches, I sit in one of the student chairs set up in the room (as I am part of the audience). Usually, based on where students sit, there is a general area I sit in for each class (one of the seats usually not used by any of my students). In one of my classes, the student who was sitting next to me would always text message during the speeches. I WAS SITTING RIGHT THERE! You would think the student would know enough not to use the phone in front of me!

In another class, a student had signed up for the army and was leaving for basic training after the semester ended. Her soon to be drill instructor (or recruiter, I really don’t remember which), would call her constantly during my class and she would take the calls out in the hall. She would tell me that when the army calls, you have to take it.

I respect the job the army does and I respect and admire college students who get involved with the military. I do not respect the lack of consideration they apparently give to teachers and school. I told the student that when the army was willing to allow her to interrupt her basic training because I had called her on her cell phone, then I would have no problem with them calling her during class. Until that time that they were willing to extend to me the same privilege they were demanding, I had a problem.

Worse yet, a friend told me that students use this as an excuse, that students who are joining the army, usually only get one phone call and then things are pretty much set until training starts. I do not know if this is true, but if I find out I was being played, I will be furious and I will probably see if I can change the individual’s grade.

Finally, I am puzzled by the approach taken by some students who are not able to make it to one of the class sessions. Again, I say in my syllabus, if you can’t make it to class (especially on a day you are scheduled to speak or have an assignment due), you need to be in touch with me BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS SESSION and let me know why. I go so far as to say, if the student has a valid reason but is not in touch with me ahead of time, points will still be deducted from the speech. Only if there is a valid reason (valid as deemed so by the instructor) AND I have been notified before the next class session, will you avoid having points deducted.

I give the students three phone numbers for me (including my cell phone). I give them to e-mail addresses. I put them all on the syllabus. They should be able to figure out how to reach me. Still, often times when students cannot make it to class, they will call other people on their cell phones, or text message them and tell the other individuals what is going on but they never get in touch with me.

Yes, cell phone usage is a major problem. I have some ideas as to how I can address the issue and I will share them in a subsequent post. Still, if you have any ideas, I am all ears.