How many of you are planning to be employed as texters? The majority of you, apparently—every time I look up, at least 25% of you are looking down at your phones, despite my polite (but not subtle) request at the beginning of the course to please turn off your phones. Maybe you didn’t hear my request, because you were too busy checking your text messages.
To the constant talkers: That constant high-pitched background soundtrack that the two of you provided with your persistent personal conversations really added to the ambience. I thought at first that you were helping each other over rough spots, and I’d ask, “are you ladies OK?” Invariably, you’d indicate that you were just fine; this occurs in every class that you two attend. More than once, I would just stop explaining whatever I was explaining, and just stare right at one of you until you stopped. Sometimes there were long moments before it seeped into your consciousness that the background noise (my instruction, other students asking questions) had ceased. Once, I just said to the class at large, “we’ll just wait until they’re finished.” Did that shame you into paying attention? Oh, hell no.
To the phone addict: At one point, I came back to the row ahead of you to help someone out of a jam, turned around, and you were just texting away. I stood there, looking right at you, finishing the answer to the other student’s problem, and you just kept on exercising your thumbs. Irked, I raised my voice, but you didn’t even look up. Finally, I reached over the top of your iMac and drummed my nails on the screen, announcing loudly “…and all you have to do is CLICK RIGHT HERE.” At last, you raised your head, your eyes slowly drifting upward as your cow-like brain registered that this might have something to do with you. I give up.
To the slacker bullshit artist: You take the cake. The day classes at [redacted] are 2 days in length. The evening versions are the same total hours, but spread over 4 evenings. You showed up Monday night, spending a fair percentage of the time with the customary texting and web surfing. Tuesday night, you were initially a no-show. But when we took our mid-evening break Tuesday night, there you were, in the hall outside the classroom, eating a pastry. I said “howdy,” and you mumbled something with your mouth full. But when we reconvened after break, you were nowhere to be seen. I delayed our restart, thinking that surely you’d materialize, but gave up when it became apparent that you weren’t coming in.
Wednesday night, you were absent again. I figured you’d drag in Thursday night, to snag your undeserved certificate. Sure enough, you settled into your chair to get caught up on your web surfing, along with occasionally clicking your way through the exercises. When I passed out the certificates at the end of the evening, you didn’t get one. I told you that you had to attend 80% of a class to get a certificate, and that you could consult the [redacted] website to see when the class would be offered again.
But you had such a great excuse— “The course listing says Dec. 8-11. I thought that meant it was on Dec. 8 and 11, not 8 through 11.” Involved with paperwork and student questions as the class broke up, I didn’t get a chance to nail you on your appearance on Tuesday that proved you knew better—trust me, son, I’ve heard plenty of bullshit in my time, but I gotta give you points for sheer audacity, looking me right in the face and telling a bald-faced lie. You’ll go far. I’m thinking politics—or at least sales. And you might want to lay off the chronic*, after falling asleep in another class, head back, snoring loudly.
Today, as you attended a day class, I waited until everyone cleared out for lunch, and put some tape on the end of your network cable, then plugged it back in. It was fun watching you trying to get connected as class continued.
It wasn’t always this way. When I first became a trainer at a training company in 1999, I saw none of this behavior—people came to class, paid attention, asked questions, and it was a lively 2-way exchange. When I struck out on my own in 2002, I taught only custom classes for corporate clients who had defined goals (and a boss expecting results). That kind of training is still very gratifying, because I’m filling in blanks for interested people, making their jobs easier and less frustrating.
In about 2009, I started teaching occasional public classes for [redacted] to make some extra money. At first, it was OK, but soon I began seeing the side effects of the constant barrage of texting, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. There was little of the dedication to tasks I see in corporate clients—most of these Gen Y students have some blue-sky notion of being “a designer,” with no sense of what’s truly involved. I impart real-world best practices in class, but I really don’t think there’s anything for it to land on.
I’d show a step, then check to make sure everyone was keeping up — “Does that work for you? Anyone need some help? Hello? Yes? No?”) Crickets. Any vocal feedback has to be forced out of some of them. All the “social media” BS has apparently rendered them incapable of actual human interaction.
By contrast, I also taught a corporate group this week, and the difference was like night and day—they were lively, asking lots of questions, providing instant feedback (“wow! So that’s why I couldn’t make that work!” “I wish I’d known this last week!” “Hey, I know how we can use this—it will save us so much time!”)
Don’t misunderstand—there were some great folks in the public classes this week, too:
- One with a wonderful imagination and attention to detail.
- One who worked very hard, through breaks, even before and after class, to practice what she was learning. And she has a great eye for good design.
- One who absorbs knowledge like a sponge, and who is constantly working to correlate class lessons to her real-life job.
- One who wasn’t shy—she piped up if things weren’t going right, and experimented beyond what we were doing.
Those students are the ones that keep me teaching when I want to give up and just go back to fixing bad files in a printing plant. But the others — well, I’m glad I’m not burdened with hiring any of them and depending on them to actually get anything done in between their obsessive texting and Facebooking.
*CHRONIC: Urban slang for marijuana.