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Opinion

Classroom distractions neglect common courtesy, reveal flaws

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October 21, 2010

Flipping through the channels last week, I happened across a rather intriguing story on the news. Turns out a math teacher, Donald Wood at McGavock High School in Tennessee, flipped out on his 11th grade algebra class. Apparently, he could not deal with the students’ disruptive behavior and decided to cope with his stress by throwing a desk and shattering a window with a chair. Yep, very mature. However ridiculous this incident may sound, it had me thinking about the distractions in class that I have encountered of late.

As a matter of fact, I can sort of understand where Mr. Wood was coming from. A few days ago I was giving a PowerPoint presentation, and right in the middle I heard the soft buzz, buzz, buzz, of a cell phone. Momentarily distracted, I looked up at my audience, looking for a downturned head and that specific blue glow. As fate would have it, the culprit was nowhere to be seen so I resumed my presentation. Minutes later, I again heard the buzz, buzz, buzz. Throughout the whole of my PowerPoint, all I could focus on was that annoying buzz! But I was not so annoyed that I wanted to throw a desk or break a window.

And what about loud texting? Perhaps that sounds persnickety of me, but has this scenario ever happened to you? You’re sitting in your 8 a.m. class, and the girl behind you begins texting; there is no mistaking the clicking noise that is fingernail against plastic. Feeling the dull twinge of annoyance begin to burn behind your eyes, you decide to actually read some of the book you were assigned. Between each printed word on the page you hear three or four clicks.  Desperately, you start reading again, but it is too late. Each click, click, click seems louder than the last, exponentially irritating you further. Exasperated, you begin to wonder if the people in the class across the hall can hear the maddening click of her never-ending texts. By now, you can hardly wait for class to start, just so she will put her phone away. 

Classroom distractions are not just caused by cell phones.  How about a classic, like the guy who will not quit kicking the leg of your chair? Realizing that your notes are beginning to resemble a barcode due to your inability to keep your pen from sliding on the paper each time his foot comes in contact with your chair, you decide to scoot up a few inches. Relieved, you finally get a few legible lines down in your notes. Possibly, you even revel at your beautiful handwriting; it is no wonder you were awarded that Thomas Jefferson award for excellent penmanship back in third grade.  Suddenly, you feel it again; your pen draws an accidental line up the middle of your notes. You think to yourself, someone should give this guy a football scholarship; his kicking is freaking persistent. 

While speaking to a few of my classmates about things that really bother them in class, I heard a few that were expected: smacking gum, clicking retractable pens, whispering, the girl who uses a laptop to take notes but plays “Family Feud” instead, etc. However, I was surprised to hear that the thing that causes them the most anxiety during class happens routinely within the last five minutes or so of class: people who pack up early. And it does make sense; when 35 people slap their notebooks shut, wrestle with their backpack zipper and then cram their notebook inside, it causes quite a commotion. Of course, this is the time when the professor tries to tell the class one last fact like the new due date of this paper, or when they will be handing back that paper, or what things we need to focus on during the reading or when class will be canceled. This information is valuable. I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of this one from time to time: we all are. Perhaps that is the lesson of this column; we are all human therefore none of us are perfect.

For example, I mentioned earlier that I was bothered by the buzz of someone’s phone during a presentation of mine.  However, I managed to complete it, finding focus once again on my topic. After I finished, I took my seat and as I did I heard that buzz, buzz, and buzz louder than ever. To my immediate dismay, I glanced down into my tote and saw that particular blue glow. Indeed, it was my phone all along.  Quickly, I scrambled to silence it and hoped desperately that no one was too annoyed.

Ashley Cress is a student at UW-River Falls.

Comments

Ashlee on 19 Nov 2010: I totally agree! If you have more important things to do and attend to, then don't show up to class.. end of story. The vibrate options on phones these days very loud; people might as well leave the tone on. I have found myself distracted multiple times by cell phones in class -- a class that I am paying to learn something. A good part two to this article would be library conduct. The level of noise and distractions in the library is ridiculous for a place that's supposed to be a sanctuary for studying. If people want to socialize, go to the UC -- there are plenty of tables there. Hopefully your article will influence other students to silence their phones and learn respect and consideration of others.