I bit my lips and started typing on my phone: “No napping or using cell phones in my class from now on.”
Sent. I then sheepishly waited in the group chat for my students to react, to respond about these new rules.
The thing is, it’s already 11 weeks into the semester. I’m no longer the new sheriff in town. So making a sudden announcement like that was awkward as a teacher.
“Would it undermine my image? Would they think less of me?”
But more importantly, what do I want to achieve?
That one is easy. Respect is what I want to teach them.
But isn’t it too late? It’s not a main course after all (my AM class is elective but also mandatory if they want to graduate), why so serious?
No, no, no, no, no.
They’d never have a chance if they don’t learn to focus, fight off social media distractions and addictions, and learn to respect people when they are talking. Such is not a golden ticket to success. But I want my students to at least have good manners, to begin with. Like when someone is talking, you don’t automatically take out your fucking phone.
Yes, this is the battle I’ve chosen. And I will fight it to the end. After all, my job is not to look good and be nice, but to teach my students things they can pack with them for life.
Before I started teaching, a fellow professor told me that I didn’t need to sweat much with this class. Just a bunch of people wanting the credits more than they want to learn.
The college is the real culprit here. Since it doesn’t know what to do with the extra unassigned credits, it created this class to check its bureaucratic boxes.
So when I had my first few classes, 90% of the students were playing with their phones. Not only was I pissed, I was frustrated with how to teach those who don’t want to be taught? I asked the same teacher, who told me to ignore it, “Just do your job and get on with life. You can’t change them.”
So I accepted the status quo.
Then a conversation with my psychologist friend Barbara made me realize just how untrue that notion was. “Teach them respect by showing them how they should treat you. And vice versa.”
After I slept on it, I decided to ignore my ego and go with my guts. We’re already here, why don’t we make it better, and bring some changes?
It’s an elective class, but I expect no less from you. That’s my message.
Not the toxic passive aggressive “You don’t give a fuck about me, so I don’t give a fuck about you.” BS which we deign to do as socialized animals who dress nicely, speak properly, and tread lightly so nobody would complain or report you.
But guess what, my job as a teacher is not to make people happy, but to make them see, make them feel, make them grow, even it means discomfort or pain.
I hope I could say “You’d thank me later,” but I know I won’t be able to know it. But that’s fine—as long as I have a clear conscience to bring back home.