Sad news and bad news in English class

So much badness where cell phones in the classroom are concerned.

I mentioned that a couple of years ago I had a classroom cell phone problem so oppressive I actually considered leaving my job.

Of course, I wasn’t going to leave my job, but what I did do was assign “cell phones in the classroom” as the final paper topic–the final paper happening to be, fortuitously, the “simple argument” assignment. (Simple argument in my department: write a 5-paragraph essay arguing for or against X.)

Unfortunately, assigning cell phones in the classroom turned out to be a misfire since more than one student took the position that cell phones in the classroom were A-OK,  the only problem being that we instructors were too boring to compete. Being more riveting than a cell phone, one student wrote, was the professor’s job.

So that was annoying. Since my policy is never to be annoyed by a student opinion, I regretted assigning the topic.

That said, the papers were a revelation.

Of course I knew students were spending a lot of time doing something on their phones, and I assumed that something had to do with social media.

But it never occurred to me that what (some) students were doing specifically was pulling out their cell phones to see whether anyone had Liked their Instagram post–and then finding out that nobody had. 

That is horrifying.

A nearly-three-hour class filled with a steady stream of little tiny pinprick social rejections? One after another after another?

How does any student learn anything, ever?

Who cares about anaphora or how to use the passive voice as a principle of cohesion when nobody Likes you?

I’m dead serious about that. Humans are social animals. We want and need to be liked (Liked?).  Worse yet, my students are adolescent social animals, which means they’re finding their people now. “Do other people like me?” matters.

It’s always worse than you think. 1

And see:
Cell phone agonistes

1. While we were raising the kids our family mottoes were “no common sense-y” and “it’s always worse than you think.” Amazing how often one or the other applied to whatever it was we were dealing with at the moment.

3 thoughts on “Sad news and bad news in English class

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