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Woman Slams Professor Who Constantly Stops Class To Scold Students For Using Their Phones

Student using cell phone during class
Kentaroo Tryman/Getty Images

We can all agree that cell phones can be a huge distraction, especially when they’re being used in a setting where they really shouldn’t be present.

Teachers have to decide how they will handle the presence of unwanted cell phones, so they can avoid creating a bigger distraction than the phone’s use itself, agreed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor cellphoneinclass was willing to accommodate each of her professors’ guidelines regarding cell phone use in the classroom, but there was one professor who would stop his lesson to lecture a student using a cell phone.

Seeing this as a bigger distraction than a fellow student using a phone, the Original Poster (OP) decided something needed to be said about the repeated lectures.

She asked the sub:

“AITA for telling my professor HE is causing the distraction and submitting a formal complaint to the head of the department?”

The OP was accepting of her professors’ various rules surrounding cell phone use.

“I (21 Female) am enrolled in a summer session at my university.”

“This school doesn’t have a blanket policy on cell phone use in the classroom, it’s up to the professor’s discretion. Most say, ‘It’s your grade; you get what you put into it.’ Others will say it affects your grade, but they won’t call you out on it; they just mark it in their book under participation.”

“I don’t have an issue with either method. I personally don’t use my phone, but I don’t really care if others do so long as they’re not disrupting the class.”

“Which, 99.9% of the time, they’re not. There’s no music, no bright lights, just someone texting or scrolling social media.”

She was concerned by how a few professors addressed cell phones, however.

“But a select few professors make it a point to call it out every time. For some, it’s just a ‘Hey, put it away’ comment, but others /one professor in particular) really lay into the person, and it derails class.”

“As this is a summer session, we already have a limited number of classes, and it’s difficult when this professor is stopping class every few minutes.”

“Now, I know the obvious solution is that these people should just stop using their phones during class, but that’s out of anyone’s control but theirs.”

“Am I annoyed with them? Kind of, but I also don’t know their life and why they may need their phone.”

“What can be controlled is stopping class so d**n often and then lecturing the person for a while.”

The OP wanted to see something change in one professor’s classroom.

“I’ve tried to talk to the professor I’m referring to about this after class, but he blew me off.”

“Today was kind of the tipping point. One of the usual suspects was on her phone.”

The professor saw her and stopped the class to lecture her.”

“She said she wouldn’t be putting her phone away.”

“The professor said he was not going back to the lecture until she did.”

“At that point, I was p**sed. We’d already spent five minutes on this, not accounting for another person he laid into earlier in the period.”

“I spoke up and said this wasn’t fair to the rest of us. We’re trying to learn and this is eating into our time.”

“The professor tried the whole ‘be upset with your peer’ approach, but I said no.”

“I said yes, maybe she shouldn’t be using her phone, but it’s not a distraction. THIS (stopping class) is the distraction.”

“Someone else said they planned on reporting this to the head of the department (meaning the professor stopping class so often), and I agreed that may be best.”

The professor did not want to hear any of this feedback.

“Cell Phone Girl, Letter Writer, and I were asked to leave class for the day. We later got an email about decorum.”

“Letter Writer and I did submit a written complaint to the head of the department, stating that our learning was constantly disrupted and noting examples of us trying to speak with the professor before.”

“Some people I’ve spoken to say I was in the right. Others say I just should’ve shut up and let it go. They pointed out the possible hypocrisy of me being upset class was derailed, then I made it worse by speaking up.”

“I see that point but also think the kerfuffle would’ve continued as long as Cell Phone Girl didn’t put her phone away.”

“AITA?”

Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some understood the OP’s concerns and pointed out she was paying for an education.

“NTA. You’re paying for an education, not to listen to someone powertrip about his authority not being respected.” – pattern_thimble

“I was thinking this the whole time I was reading this post. I don’t pay you to go off on a tangent; I pay you to teach. If they have a problem with students using phones, they should address it and move on.” – bernie0013

“This isn’t grade school anymore, you’re there to learn. If she wants to sit on her phone, so be it, but the rest of you are paying him to teach you, not to throw a power trip every 20 minutes. I 100% would’ve written the letter and went to the department head.” – Dramatic_Efficiency4

“NTA. You’re basically paying him to teach the course. He’s there to work for you.”

“You’re not in high school/secondary school. You’re adults. Everyone has a cell phone. He needs to get over it and teach the class he’s paid to teach.” – sothereisthisgirl

“We had an issue with a professor in grad school. He was a studio professor and he was wholly unequipped to guide our semester studio projects.”

“He was constantly tossing in weird and unhelpful advice, not actually giving feedback to students, and when reviews would roll around with actual panel reviewers in the field, if the project was being critiqued more, then he would immediately start throwing the student under the bus. He also said some not-so-ok things to some of the foreign students, which was outlandish given he is also a foreigner, too.”

“It got to the point I would give him two option questions, like, ‘Do you like A or B?'”

“At the end of the semester (his second at the school), we went to the dean and made it clear we felt like our money had been wasted. That he had been insulting and unhelpful and untethered from our projects, often just musing about random things.”

“It turns out the previous class had complained too and another professor was supposed to tag team our class with this guy but that fell through.”

“The following semester, they permanently moved him to the undergraduate college.”

“We realized he was moved there because undergrads are less likely to complain because they don’t recognize that they are the ones purchasing that class and deserve for it to be run effectively.”

“So we (the graduate students) continued to complain, and those of us who were TAs (Teaching Assistants) for him, since undergrad professors get graduate TAs for studio time, also complained and finally he was moved to an elective lecturing position.”

“He also lied on his resume.”

“Moral of the story: You pay for your education. Don’t let someone waste it.” – Choice_Werewolf1259

But others argued that the OP shouldn’t have added to the disruption during class time.

“YTA, sorry but it’s true. All you did was make a BIGGER distraction by challenging the instructor on how he/she chose to lead the class.”

“Try to put yourself in the instructor’s shoes: He’s dealing with literal ‘adults’ of 18 years and older who ought to have the self-control to be separated from an electronic device for at least 50 minutes at a time.”

“Especially as students pay to attend classes; it’s a waste of your money and the instructor’s time if students decide the world that they are not physically present in is more important than where they have chosen and paid to be – in class and, hopefully, learning.”

“What your instructor did was illustrate how one willful student could distract the entire class. It may have been a bid to exert peer pressure to get the disruptive student into line.”

“All you can do is be responsible for yourself. If you feel this student with the phone is causing you to fall behind, you may have valid cause to lodge a complaint. But it’s wrong to fault the instructor. He or she is paid to teach; not to babysit and police students who ought to know better.” – j4ckb1ng

“I’m going to get roasted here, but as a teacher, YTA. It actually takes away a lot more time from the learning experience of others when you have to address the same question multiple times because students are on their phones and aren’t paying attention.”

“It ends up being more unintentionally punitive to students who put more effort into the class because you spend more time responding to basic questions from students not paying attention to students who, all of a sudden, wake up when they realize there’s work and they have no idea what to do.”

“I promise you that’s probably the point your professor was trying to make.” – throwaway1_2_0_2_1

“I see both sides. I’m a professor, but I’m also a human. It can be hurtful when I am trying to share something I have out a lot of time and thought into and students are so clearly ignoring me.”

“The phones are an example of incivility. But with practice, I’ve learned to ignore them and engage with the students who choose to show up and get their money’s worth.”

“I’m going with E-S-H, but mostly YTA, because your actions are still supporting incivility. Your classmate was in the wrong, but you’re punishing your teacher. It’s tough to be on display for a large crowd and have them blatantly disrespect you.”

“Instead of a dean complaint, maybe a discussion with the professor and the department head to come to a resolution. I agree kicking out the cell phone girl would have been quicker and more appropriate. However, some colleges really don’t support us kicking students out of class.”

“Without knowing where you are or how department heads behave and back faculty, I don’t know how feasible that was.” – Unicorn_strawberries

“YTA.”

“You said, ‘The professor tried the whole ‘be upset with your peer’ approach, but I said no. I said yes, maybe she shouldn’t be using her phone, but it’s not a distraction. THIS is the distraction.'”

“Yeah, you should be pressuring the a**hole with the phone to stop being an a**hole, especially if they are directly ignoring the professor.”

“How would you like to spend your time explaining ideas to some a**holes vacantly starting at something else and ignoring you?”

“You also said your friends ‘pointed out the possible hypocrisy of me being upset class was derailed, then I made it worse.'”

“And I say exactly, either it is right to confront a**holes delaying a lesson or it isn’t, your view is to pressure the professor to tolerate blatant disrespect by getting up on your soapbox and shifting blame away from the a**holes and onto him.”

“If every professor put the same effort into combatting this nonsense, it would go away, if every student harasses the small number that give a d**n then over time things will just get more and more obnoxious and stupid.” – IncosistentEffort20

After receiving feedback, the OP was still conflicted.

“So the common consensus among the YTAs is that I should’ve just gone to the department head to start, given I already tried talking to the professor on my own. I can understand that point of view and don’t disagree.”

“I want to clarify again: I am not mad about his policy. It is well within his rights. I am upset about how he executes it. Kicking her out takes five seconds versus going on a whole tangent multiple times throughout class.”

“But for those who say I shouldn’t have submitted the complaint either… what is your alternative? Some have said to talk to the student. But if that doesn’t work, we continued to fall behind on material and then we don’t do well… that’s basically punishing those who aren’t doing anything wrong.”

“So genuinely, how does this get fixed outside going above him?”

The subReddit could completely understand why the OP was so frustrated with how her teacher was handling the situation, but they were much more divided on the OP’s involvement in classroom management.

While some thought speaking up and reporting was the right thing to do for the OP and the rest of her classmates, others felt that another distraction did not right the earlier distractions.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.