I'm sure working with adults is no picnic sometimes, but I've got a feeling it's not like working with kids.
The adult's brain, for the most part, is a fully developed machine. And sure, adults can be super-difficult, especially when set in their ways, but are the adults you work with little hot messes running around with cell phones thinking every life decision is going to make or break them?
And don't even get me started with Snapchat.
About four years ago, as technology became a bigger part in education, with amazing tools, websites, applications, and such at our fingertips, my district rolled out something called "bring your own device."
Working in a socioeconomic landscape that is fairly well-off, students were able to bring in their own laptops, their phones, iPads, tablets, Xerox copy machines -- you name it. With those devices, it expanded the computer availability in my room.
I'm lucky to have a working lab of 17 computers that I don't have to share with anyone, but when 30+ students walk into the room ready to type a story (and I don't do handwritten, sorry), this becomes a bit of a problem since the tech-to-student ratio is low.
I can't be an old-school journalism teacher and have them handwrite their stories so they can just type them up later. If I'm going to matter as a class, I need to make sure I'm having my students do the things that their high school and professional counterparts are doing.
This involves everything digital.
Laying out a newspaper/magazine (also called "pagination") doesn't happen with paper and glue -- it's done on the computer, where we don't have to waste paper anymore. Designing the yearbook uses a full-blown online program supplied by Herff Jones that allows us to custom-create a stunning hardback book that encapsulates the school year. Although we'll print out a few pages, the only time we really print anything is when we publish the actual product.
And this year, I'm no longer just teaching writing, photography and graphic design. I've thrown in the basics of video filming, editing and shooting.
All these things require technology, so it's nice when a student can write a story on their phone and use their phone/iPad to film/edit video, which frees up the computers for the programs that can't be used on phones.
Until the phones take over.
And believe me...they've taken over.
I wish I had a device that shot some kind of electro-pulse through the air that would disrupt my students' phones.
Because, seriously, people, I am really tired of my students making ugly faces at their phones and staring at their laps. I understand they're incapable of seeing the big picture, but those little screens sometimes makes it impossible to see any picture at all.
The plus-side to this extra technology was mentioned above.
The down-side? Let me count the ways.
Do you know how fast a student can whip out their phone and log onto a game the minute they're finished with a task? And do you even realize how many ugly selfies they take of themselves so they can send them with some benign and unintelligent comment using Snapchat?
And if you want them to have a certain app, good luck, because their phone is out of space. The storage is taken up with all their pictures that they won't delete -- you know the same picture they took with their friends 100 times.
As long as they're getting their work done, putting forth the effort to be a good journalist, and being a mini-contributor to society, I don't mind if they check their Instagram, reply to a quick text or the like. We, as adults, do it.
I can't be a hypocrite.
But when the phones have taken over and they think their social lives are more important, this is when I want to send out the electro-pulse. Something to cripple their ability to be really annoying with their devices.
That way they can pay attention to the task at hand.
Which is real-world skills we're working on. We're actually publishing things to a real, living, human audience.
Then again, remember when students were passing notes and not paying attention before phones were even a thing?
This battle I'm fighting is the same battle all teachers have been fighting, it's just using a different set of artillery.
Who is The Vade Mecum
Evan Williams is a middle school journalism teacher in Indiana. He advises the student publications: yearbook, magazine, video announcements, broadcast and online news. To find success in the classroom, he uses blended learning with the help of Canvas and Google Apps for Education.