Where Does Selfishness End?

So, I just saw another article about a school district that might go to a 4-day school week. There’s plans (at least in my state) to raise minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next 6 years. This past holiday season everyone complained about stores being open on Thanksgiving or Christmas. And as always, the Europeans’ lifestyle of taking regular holiday is in the minds of American workers as much as siestas and paternity leave.

And I’m just wondering where will it all end?

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What’s the Real Problem with Cell Phones in School

I have decided to begin a new series of posts under the misnomer “What’s the Real Problem.” Why a misnomer? You’ll see…

Today’s topic is Cell Phones in School… and… what’s the problem.. with them in school.

But not really.

Here’s the scoop.

Kids use cell phones in school.

*GASP* right?

Oh, you knew that already? Good, then maybe you’ve had time to think about the ramifications of students being free to carry around a powered on (but in most cases silenced) calculator-dictionary-encyclopedia-video game console-TV-radio-in-one device throughout the course of the school day. I have thought about it extensively. Here’s my thoughts (some, specifically from the point of view of a teacher, which I was for some time):

First, let’s go with the obvious: it’s a distraction. Just think about the last time you were out with friends (…or saw other people out with friends, you loser ;). What do you always see? Someone, at least one person, is on a smartphone. They could be checking social media, taking a selfie, looking at emails, checking up on their sports, or just reading articles. They could also be playing a game, searching through YouTube, or simply browsing the web. You see kids doing this all the time. Sometimes in groups in which they purposely planned to meet so they could “see each other”. Sure they could be talking to one another and having a conversation, but instead they’re playing games or posting the dankest memes. It’s a distraction that I myself use when I don’t feel like being social, or when I don’t feel like I’m a part of the group I’m with. It’s a distraction and an escape. That escape can be OK… and a little mobile gaming while waiting in line to order food isn’t that big of a deal. As a matter of fact, most adults who get on their phone during any downtime aren’t doing anything particularity wrong. Nor are they using the phone to take the place of another, more social activity (like talking to a friend). Most of them wouldn’t be talking anyway. And when they do have something to say, the phone usually goes off until the conversation is done.

But that’s not even the issue with phones in school. And I’ll bet you think I’m going to accuse students of using them to cheat?

*loud raspberry noise*

Ya, right!

I had to train students to use their school issued tablets to look something up when they were arguing with one another, or wondering how something worked, or couldn’t remember where a country was located on the globe. The same thing happened with students at a community center where I worked. They would just argue back and forth. And I would comment, “too bad we don’t have some way to look up this information. You know, if only I had a pair of pants that produced information and then I could just reach into my pocket and pull out that information. I’d know everything!”… Then they’d look at me like I’m stupid, but one of them would take the hint.

That’s right: the future rulers of our social security checks, the ones who grew up with technology at their fingertips didn’t think “oh ya! I’ve got Google in my pocket. Let’s ask her!”

Yes. Google is female.

So if being a distraction isn’t the big problem with cell phones in school, and the possibility of using them to cheat isn’t the biggest problem, then what’s the problem?

The problem is us.

Not “us” meaning “US” or to clarify “U.S.” or to say bluntly the “United States of America.”

“Us” meaning you and me and the teachers and the principals and the parents and the politicians and even the students. All of us. We are the problem.

Example time!

There is this kid I know who draw pictures and posts them to Facebook. He does this throughout the school day. He also posts other stuff or shares posts from Facebook pages.

But again, this is during the school day. While he’s in school.

Now, you’d think there would be a third category here. We already have “distraction” and we have “cheating.” So this might be… “wasting time?”

Actually, this use of a cell phone is poor time management… or wasting time, and possibly a distraction. But it’s not cheating. At least not in his case.

OK, let’s look at it this way: If he is supposed to be paying attention to the teacher, but is instead danking those memes, then he is using his time poorly, while also being a disrespectful dolt. However, if he is playing on his cell phone while he should be doing homework, then he is just using his time poorly. If he has no lecture to listen to and no work to complete, then I guess he’s not doing anything wrong. Why would I say that?

If he didn’t have his phone, he’d still be doodling. The same things above apply to his doodles: if he doodles while teacher is teachering – disrespectful dolt. If he doodles instead of doing homework – wasting time. But if he has nothing to do, and the teacher just needs the students to chill until the bell rings, then he’s at least doing something with his time instead of causing a disruption, being loud and obnoxious, or blankly staring at the wall. At least he’s creating something.

Is that the same as getting to the next level in Pokemon Go? I don’t think so.

But what about reading an article on a news app? Or playing a puzzle game? Or sending a close friend a picture of you as a puppy, because that friend has been going through a hard time and hasn’t felt much like, well, feeling anymore?

Sure, posting a picture of a drawing to Facebook while you’re in school might make someone think, “why are you on your phone? You’re supposed to be paying attention in class!”

But the truth is there might not be much to pay attention to.

The reality is, since a lot of schools allow students to carry around their phones with them, the teacher needs to explicitly explain the appropriate and inappropriate times to be on the cell phone. The school needs to have specific rules for this stuff. The parents need to back up the school when they enforce these rules. AND the parents need to be a part of the whole process: telling the school what they think of phone use. Talking to their kids about their phone use. And also, working with the school, backing them up, and disciplining their kids at home, properly.

We also need to stop being such hypocrites!

Do you know what I began writing this post on? My phone. And do you know where I was? The ba- that’s not important.

If we as adults are going to use our phones to listen to music, watch videos, take pictures, look up information, navigate around town, find movie times, check emails, take business calls, chat with groups whether friends or colleagues, then maybe we need to allow students to do the same. Albeit, we need to examine our own habits to make sure we are using the technology appropriately and in a mentally and physically healthy manner. AND we need to then educate our children on those same habits. But why not just let the kids use their phones?

It would be like anything else. Let’s look at drinking. Ridiculous statistics about underage drinking aside, what do most people do when they turn 21? They go crazy bar hopping trying every drink known to the western world… and then a few from the east. Why? Because they can.

If we tell kids “no phones in school” then not only are we lying to them about how the real world works, but we are closing them off. Once the doors are opened they will get out those cell phones and never look back. If we don’t let them use their phones in a real world environment we’ll never have the chance to educate them about how and when to use them. Likewise, when it’s just not appropriate to have that phone out.

I can imagine a kid at a funeral, on his phone, playing some game… because he’s bored. Naively unaware at the emotional state of those around him. Wait, did I say I could imagine this? Oh, sorry. I meant to say I’ve seen this before.

And that’s not even the half of it.

What problem will I have next?

Who will be the butt of my jokes?

How many one sentence paragraphs can I get away with?

Find out next time on…

“What’s the Real Problem”!

Promotional consideration for “What’s the Real Problem” provided by:


-Diggs out

P.S.  I hate the idea of kids walking around school with their faces glued to their phones. It’s just stupid.

P.P.S.  If I was a student allowed to have my phone, you bet I’d be on it all the time. Maybe not while the teacher it talking, but definitely instead of doing homework. I used to doodle all the time, too. ;D

P.P.P.S.  ‘sup!

Guy Complains About School – Offers No Solutions… just like everyone else

Someone I know shared this video on Facebook. It looked… ok, I guess. So, I thought, “eh, lets see what this is about…” But I didn’t get very far.

Why didn’t I watch the whole video? (disclaimer: I did not watch the whole video. I did read comments on the video and have a general idea of how the rest of the video went.)

Because, this video is just complaining. For every teacher who forces the desks to be in a row there are three times as many who put kids in pods or circles. Raise your hand before you speak? Ya! It’s called respect. Why haven’t classrooms changed in 100 plus years? IDK Why hasn’t bread changed? Why hasn’t the political system changed? Why hasn’t footwear, apple pie, monetary systems, infrastructure, or house layouts changed? Some things don’t need to change.

Are you mad because you can’t wear certain clothes to school?

You can’t speak how you want?

You have to do homework?

Well, guess what, your boss isn’t going to care what your favorite band or superhero is. He (or she) isn’t going to put up with your loud, interrupting mouth very long. What’s that? Didn’t feel like working on your project because it was Halloween? Congratulations! You’re fired!

Hate standing in line? What if everyone went to the DMV and just walked to the counter, without any regard to the persons who have been waiting their turn? What if that happened at the supermarket, the bank, a theme park, at traffic lights?

In school, you learn a lot about how to behave as a civilized, dignified person. You learn social skills as well as math, reading, science, etc. Kids just don’t realize it because they don’t want to work (lazy), they just want what they want when they want it (selfish), and they are plagued by a world that has convinced them that school is there to force them to be a “good student” and that teachers don’t care about them.


You know who doesn’t care about students? People who knock on teachers. If these people put a little time and effort into actually studying the schools, teachers, policies, school districts, principals, and students then they would learn what teaching in today’s world is all about.

But most people just ask the kids, “what don’t you like about school?” And then, they use this as a measuring stick for how good the school actually is. That’s like asking an inmate in prison, “so, what do you think your punishment should be for raping and murdering 20 children within the past decade?” That’s just stupid! Anyone who doesn’t like something is going to tell you it’s wrong or bad for them or just something they don’t like. If you give them a chance, they’ll make up an excuse as to why what they have to put up with is detrimental to their mental health, their education, and their future. But it’s all BS. A kid says, “I want less homework and more recess” and you’re just going to give it to him? The prison inmate says, “I should be able to wear pink shirts with my favorite superhero on it” are you going to give in to that too?

(btw, students are not prisoners. I know this.)

I have heard a lot of stories that are absolutely contrary to some of the statements this guy made. For example, when there was yet another school shooting a teacher I know actually stopped math class to sit down with her students and discuss their feelings and emotions on the matter. She recognized that math wasn’t really important at that time. The emotional well being of her students was the important thing right then.

I personally have mixed up classes, subjects, and topics to help students grow. I’ve sat on the floor with kindergarteners and read them a book. I’ve sat at my desk with a class of 7th graders crowding around me to talk about some political issue. I’ve interrupted my lessons just to talk about something the students really wanted to discuss.

“But all teachers aren’t like that.”

Uh… good!

You think you’re going to learn how to deal with rude, obnoxious people if your teacher just lets you express your mind all the time? Do you think you’ll be able to handle a boss who is strict if your classroom doesn’t have any rules? Do you think a police officer is going to care that you don’t learn when people are yelling at you (and hopefully he’s only yelling at you because you’re doing something wrong… another thing you learn not to do in school… wrong things, that is… and hopefully they taught you not to yell at cops, or any other authority figure)?

Discipline is a good thing. Punishment is a good thing. Embarrassment can be a good thing. Love is a great thing.

But “loving” a child doesn’t mean making them happy all the time. You’re going to be in the world one day and people are going to make you mad, sad, and glad. You have to learn how to deal with it. Does this mean some teachers should be jerks to give the kids a well balance education? No. Are some teachers jerks? Yes. Is this a good thing? Uh, bittersweet, maybe.

And then he got to his point.

My point is that complaining about things doesn’t fix them. I was a teacher and I left teaching. Was I trying to fix the school system? No. I was just trying to be a great teacher and mentor to my students, while giving them good information on my subject of computers and computer science. And guess what… the students didn’t always like what we did in computer class. We did lots of cool, fun stuff. But not everyone liked it. It’s as if every student is a different person and you can’t compare any of them, or the schools they go to. It’s as if a YouTube video wouldn’t really matter much in the grand scheme of life. And it’s also as if this guy (who produced the video) is just a bitter young man who didn’t like his school and feels betrayed by the school system he was supposed to be educated by.

Well, congratulations, guy! They taught you how to read and write, and now you can make YouTube videos and convince the students of this generation how bad school is and how much it needs to change to conform to students expectations instead of providing actual value to the students life: i.e. life skills, social skills, basic education, understanding of political and social systems, and the basic knowledge to self-teach and eventually go down your own path in life.

Like you did.

To close out I would like to make a confession: I hated school. I hated everything about it. To this day I hate school. I enjoyed teaching, if only because I thought I could add value to my student’s education that I never found. I thought I could be the teacher to them that I never had. I wasn’t too thrilled at some of the things I saw observing in other schools, as well as working in a school. But, you know, that’s life. Nothing is going to be perfect. Even if I was to become a principal there would be teachers who wouldn’t like what I was doing any more than I liked what I saw principals and other teachers do. But I am happy to have received that kind of experience. Now I know, and I can help make a better tomorrow with actual experience in the field, rather than just changing something I hated at one time in my life.


The world we live in, am I right?

Anyway, that’s my thoughts. They are just my thoughts. And actually, this is only a sliver of the thoughts I’ve had about education. I’ve recently moved to Florida from Illinois. There were a ton of kids who went to the school where I worked, or visited the Community Center where I worked who suddenly liked me and didn’t want me to leave. I say “suddenly” because I never knew. But they knew and they cared. All that work I did, I did for them. And guess what? It was working. I just never saw it. As a teacher you pray for a sign that you’re getting through to your students; that what you’re doing actually matters. But you rarely ever get it, and when you do it’s only from one student. I got lucky. And I don’t appreciate some YouTube loser putting down schools systems as one, general item when so many of the teachers and administrators are working harder than I did, and making a difference in the lives of thousands of students each year. Yes, school is hard. Yes, it sucks some times. But it’s also necessary and we are doing the best we can.

-Diggs out

P.S. – I should have tried to come up with a better analogy than prison… but I think it’s one so many people can relate to… that is, many kids already think of school as prison. Sad, but true.

P.P.S. – there’s a new movie coming out about a bunch of kids who rebel against their school because it’s not fun enough… *sigh* can’t wait to see how this affects my old students…

Why Can’t the Middle Schoolers be Quiet

I received this email from our principal a few days ago. It made no difference to me until today, when I was sitting in study hall and repeatedly (as usual) telling the students to sit silently and read or work on homework. With the rolling eyes, and scornful looks after their request to get a drink was denied, I decided to finally answer her question.

Dear Faculty, My question to you is why is it so quiet at the E.S. when teachers are teaching and when I walk the halls here there is a great deal of talking? It hit me like a brick wall the other day when I walked the halls at the E.S. and visited classrooms that the students were all focused on the teacher and yes, when the teacher was talking they were listening! 

As you can see, she is comparing the elementary school students to our middle schoolers. Apples versus genetically mutated pineapple grapes. My answer to her question flowed quite quickly and fluidly as I typed out the following from beginning to end with no edits and in about 20 minutes. Obviously I had given it some thought before today…

I have an answer to your question. It may sound like I am being sarcastic, or like I’m trying to be funny, but I’m not. The answer to your question is “they are teenagers.” Again, I’m not trying to be funny. I’m actually trying to stay calm and sane, because each eye roll and sarcastic argument the students make with me inches me ever closer to wanting to chuck a desk out the window (and yes, that was for comedic effect). Honestly, I just think it is simply because of the time of their lives the middle school students are in. I also think it has a lot to do with respect, or a lack thereof, which they no doubt learn from their parents, teachers, coaches, and even peers. I’m sure you all know this already, but as I sit in study hall and have to fight back anger, repeating my instructions over and over, with the threat of detentions and being sent to the office, praying for wisdom and peace, I realize I am upset for the same reason my parents were upset with us when we were young. It’s the same reason adults yelled at us when we were teenagers. It’s the same reason we got in trouble. These children are literally fighting to fit in. They are disrespectful, rude, scared, self-conscious, hiding, and calling out all at the same time. They are trying to be unique while also trying to fit in. They want the attention of their peers and teachers at the same time they want to simply blend in to the background. Their brain chemistry is changing every minute, hormones are racing through their bloodstream, and new thoughts and feelings are emerging. Some of them just want to do the right thing. Some of them want to do the fun thing, no matter the cost. Some of them really don’t care about anything other than their personal interests. They are old enough to know better, but not old enough to comprehend the reasons. An 8th grader once asked me a question, which I cannot recall, but my answer to him was, “you won’t like my answer.” As he inquired I simply told him he would understand when he got older, and there was no reason for me to even try to explain it because he simply would not understand it. These kids have not had the experience necessary to “get” where we are coming from. They will not sit still, they will not be quiet, and they will not act with respect… unless forced. Unfortunately there are only two ways to handle things from here. We either force the students to do what we want: that is, what we believe is right, just, moral, safe, considerate, kind, helpful, loving; or we tell them what we believe and think about the world, and let them choose for themselves, which they will ultimately do anyway; with or without scorn for us adults.

The simple answer is, “because they are teenagers,” but it’s really not that simple of an answer. It is common knowledge that teenagers are complex people. Even though recent developments in science have given us better understanding of the ever changing chemistry of the adolescent brain, we are no closer to understanding the adolescent mind. They are literally children trapped in a body they assume should have grown-up responsibilities; with some of them looking the part. Their actions usually are met with mixed reactions as they assume an adult should be proud of them for taking care of business, but they are instead reprimanded (not for the action itself, but rather for the way the student went about completing the action: disrupting class, causing distractions, making more work for a teacher, and so on).

The bottom line: there is nothing we can do. Sure you can yell at them, guilt them into behaving, and threaten disciplinary action, but this will only go so far and it will only work for so long. Expecting the students to just “be good” is equally ignorant, as they will not behave properly unless told how to behave properly. Tell them why? Isn’t it best for them to just do as you say? If the students are asking questions it can only be for two reasons: they are trying to be funny, get you off topic, or waste class time (for whatever reason); or they have a sincere question and because they are able to come up with and ask the question they are probably capable of understanding the answer on some level. If the answer you give isn’t enough, they are probably capable of understanding deeper thoughts and bigger concepts than you realize. So explain it a bit more. But with all this explaining, and all the discussions, and all the talking, and all the teaching there is still no way to force teenagers to do what you want. A wise politician (yes, they exist) once said the best way to affect your kid’s decisions is to find out what they want and advise them to do it. With the intent of getting them to do the opposite, simply because they will do exactly what you told them not to.

I didn’t actually send this, as I have gotten myself into hot water by sending out emails that were too long for people to make sense of my point. Instead I’ll just keep this to myself, as well as the millions of people who won’t read it out here on the Internet. But if you are reading this, I hope you got something out of it.

We need to ask the bigger question: Why does it matter?

So, I watched this show on one of the PBS channels. It was an episode of their Independent Lens series. This episode was about the Texas state board of education and their deliberations on the science and then history curriculum. They were trying to decide what should get taught in their schools, how it should get taught, and what should not get taught.

Most of the discussions seemed to focus on the (almost moot) debate between people who believe in evolution and those crazy Christians (me being one of them) who believe in the creation story from the Bible. Oh ya, then there’s the people who can’t make up their mind: those who believe in intelligent design (a god-person set things into motion and that’s how we got here). You wouldn’t believe the nonsense that these people are debating.

I believe God made humanity and everything else in the universe. Does that mean He literally pulled us out of the dust? Or does that mean at some time He liked where his creation was headed, from an evolutionary viewpoint, and decided to bless us with souls and possibly better intelligence? Does that mean we were and are a completely separate species from everything else on the planet? Or does that mean we did in fact evolve from the -sapien line of mammals into the human form we think of today?

Why does it matter?

If my great-, great-, a million times great-grandparents were monkeys, how does that affect who I am at this moment in time?

Here’s another set of equally pointless questions: Is the Earth billions of years old? Or is it merely 10,000 years old?

Why does it matter?

Is the Earth the creation of an omnipotent being who has always existed? Or is the Earth the result of galactic physics, much of which we are just beginning to understand well, which shaped our universe into this planet we assume (because of our limited life spans) is set in stone?

Why does it matter?

I’m all for studying history. I think we need to study history as it really happened, with all of the good and bad done by the good and bad people, governments, and regimes. If you don’t study history, you will repeat it. Learning about how the Cold War went down (America saying, “you can’t have nukes, only we can.”) could help us determine how to better solve such disputes (*cough* Korea *cough*) in future conflicts. However, learning that I indeed have a common ancestry with the oak tree in my back yard (not that I even believe that) doesn’t affect my life much at all. It doesn’t affect my decisions nor does it affect how I live my life. That was so long ago, anyway, that there is no connection anymore. It simply doesn’t matter.

What should we do then?

Tell kids about the creation story, because some cultures and many people in America still believe it. But also tell kids about evolution. And, also tell them about this middle ground called intelligent design. What’s the harm? If a child grows up believing in evolution, they die and get to heaven only for God to ask, “really?” They believe in the creation story or even intelligent design, they die and absolutely nothing happens. Big friggin’ deal!

Last thing I have to say: statistics and computer models continue to show the probability of a life sustaining planet existing (besides Earth) more than ever. The probability of life existing on that planet is going up as well. But this still doesn’t mean life has to exist outside of Earth. These similar computer models don’t prove evolution or the big bang either. Just because something is considered to be fact by the majority doesn’t mean it is. Congress makes “majority” decisions all the time and lots of people find their decisions to be crap.

And I know congress is not made up of scientists.

Opposites Revolt Me

I guess I’m at that time in my life. Of course, it could be caused by the fact that I work with teens. Oh, ya. What am I talking about…

I hate people. Ok, I severely dislike human beings and their nature. Here’s what irks me today: I want to teach my students to be good, kind, trustworthy, loving people. However, the world is teaching them to be selfish, greedy, and worry only about themselves. The world wants these kids to treat other people like crap and then laugh about it. The world is teaching these kids that authority figures are stupid and they don’t have to respect anyone, much less adults.

I feel as if I tell them to act like a good person and they look at me the same way kids looked at me when I was a kid. They act like I’m being prude, or a goody-goody, or lame, or square. And while I’m not particularly worried about what they think of me, I do worry about how they will continue to act in the future. I could act appropriately, teach with my words and lead by example, but it feels as if they just don’t get it. They are determined to be rude, disrespectful, and perverted people.

Perhaps this is just children. Which is why I thought it might just be that I am at that time in my life. Instead of having kids at the age of 27, and then dealing with their teenage versions 13 years from now, I am dealing with 120 different middle schoolers at the same time; most of whom are acting or beginning to act more and more perverse, rude, etc. So, it’s probably just hitting me harder. I am trying to teach these kids respect and love among all else and I don’t see it in return. So, naturally, I just assume they’re not picking it up, meaning I’m not getting through to them. But I’m not a bad teacher…. am I?

Leading by example is hard. I guess (because I’ve been told this before) I’ll never really know what kind of impact I’ve had on a child’s life until I see them at the supermarket with their own kid one of these days…