No Filter Required: Classroom Tempers in the Digital Age

A petite student called me an “asshole” in class the other day. Dropped the “F” bomb, invited me to write her up, and stormed out of my class when I informed her that leaving was an option.

This got me thinking about the more extreme reactions I have noticed in classes this year. Granted, most of my kids are the same kind of students teachers see year after year; cooperative, well-behaved, and dutiful. But these days there are a few new twists to those few who do not fit that description.

There is a variation on the withdrawn student these days, one who has withdrawn in a very specific way. A teacher spots this kid easily; his or her head is always looking into his or her lap, where the cell phone is “hidden” so cleverly. Such a student forces a teacher to decide how to handle the situation. Is it worth class time to confront the kid, maybe confiscate, or more correctly, attempt to confiscate the cellphone, if that is school policy? Can a quiet word do the trick, get the student to put it away, or will that just suffice for a moment? Will calling the parent end with satsifaction, or will the class begin to pull away from the “narc” teacher?

Similarly, what do we do with a student who always seems to have technology dangling off him. Earphones hanging out of the hoodie, cell next to a textbook, but not “on” or “not being used.” It is just there “in case of emergency.”

Again, how much class time do we use to battle technology?

More often, students will come in and email their essays to me, sans paragraph indents, and other standardization. Allowable use of technology, or surrender to be resisted?

Of course, the very presence of such powerful technology complicates the vigil against cheating tremendously. What to do, what to do?

How to proceed is a difficult and increasingly necessary question to wrestle with because the overwhelming majority of students have powerful smart phones in their pockets, wielding technology that often leaves classroom tech in the stone age. How does a teacher remain relevant when put at such an odd disadvantage?

And then there is my beloved petite fireball with her foul language and hair trigger temper. Students often do not filter their comments on facebook, tumblr, and so on, why would they feel a need to do so in a class room? And when the class room moves so much slower than the technology in their hands, why should the “host” of that room be given more respect than a fb friend?

The only answer I come up with, the one I rally behind when these situations arise on a daily basis in class, is that I am what all the social networking in existence is not; I am there, standing right in front of them, looking them in the eye, and honestly offering face-to-face rather than facebook-to-facebook communication.

Does it always work? No. Is it worth remianing true to every day? I believe it is, and i would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

So, what do you think?


Christopher Ryan is author of City of Woe, available on Kindle and Nook, and in print. For more info, click here.


About chrisryanwrites

I do my best to tell fast-paced stories with humor and heart. My fiction work is available on Here, I’ll write about the sources for those stories from what I read, watch, listen to, and observe to my experiences as a former award-winning journalist, high school teacher, actor, and producer.
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