I work on a big research university campus. I am a librarian. I feel y'all's pain. At any rate, this term I am sitting in on a big freshman lecture class for kicks (it's in a subject area I want to learn more about, in one of the departments I support). I cleared my participation with the professor first; he is a long-tenured old-school-style lecturer, lenient in tone and Scantron in grading. I sit in the back; there isn't much discussion in class, and there's 100 people in the room, so I don't speak up and I'm not a distraction.
Here's the thing. The last time I took a big lecture class like this was maybe 11 or 12 years ago. In the meantime, I went to grad school and of course now I work with students all the time; still, I am enjoying the anthropology exercise of observing the freshmen in their native habitat, and it seems that surprisingly enough not all that much has changed, except that everyone in class now has phones. Oh, the phones.
They cannot put their phones down for a second. There is endless surreptitious texting up in the back rows where I hang out. And one girl, who sits just ahead of where I generally sit, has the audacity to *listen to music on a single headphone* on her phone while she is also listening to lecture and theoretically taking notes. Oh, and occasionally the music is interrupted for texting. I am sure that it is music, and not anything else that could possibly be construed as a study aid, because I can see the album covers on her iPhone.
I am baffled by this. I can see how distracted she is; it is obvious that she's not actually tracking the lecture. I can see the instant joy that texting brings her, versus listening to an explanation of something that is slightly difficult to grasp; it's like a shot in the arm, like the compulsive internet checking that I myself do when bored but can also control when necessary. It's not as if the whole thing is dry as dust; the class isn't bad. The material isn't tough and the prof is a pretty good lecturer (it's not flashy, either - but there is the occasional picture and diagram). The students are almost all actual freshman, six months out of high school, and many of them are still learning how to do this whole going to school thing. (The first day, I helped someone figure out how to fold out their chair-desk).
None of them know me; if there was a research paper due for the class I would have been more forthcoming about my role and offered help, but there isn't. They just know I'm older. I think it's a safe bet none of these students will be coming into my specialized library any time soon.
I want to call these students out on their bad behavior, especially the music listening girl; I want to teach her a life lesson on behalf of everyone everywhere. But I also feel like her poor grade may do that on its own.
Q: What would you say to her, if you had a chance?