He's Quitting Cold Turkey

People fret about how much time kids spend with electronic media: TV, videogames, facebook, etc. Schoolwork suffers. It's not clear how an individual teacher is supposed to tackle that issue. So teacher prep programs typically leave it alone.

Over at his blog, Ross points out that that electronic media addiction is a big issue facing teachers. And that is something an individual teacher can tackle.

The specific concern is that during certain hours during the traditional work day that are set aside for "prep," Ross gets distracted. He writes:

I am 100% addicted to email, and am perpetually tethered to it via mobile internet. I know enough about myself that given addiction to X, no amount of promises to "limit" myself to Y indulgences in X over Z hours/days are going to cut it.

I have to choose vast swaths of the day during which to go cold turkey. And I have to turn off WiFi and leave my phone in the other room when I'm working at home. Only 100% rigid compliance to these rules will yield returns. (Just did it again. OMG. Attention span for the LOSS.)

But I am committed to doing everything I can to set myself up to be the most legit grinder I can be this summer/fall/life. I didn't participate in a single fantasy draft this year. I deleted Scrabble and the NYTimes crossword from my iPhone months ago. Tangible steps towards responsible teacherhood.

I struggle with the same issue. My wife sometimes fines me $5 for surfing the internet or answering email at home after 12 hours at the office. The cash goes into a martini shaker (which is on hiatus during pregnancy). The "internet off" fund is then supposed to be spent on Date Night at some fancy restaurant. I think we have enough for a pretty nice dinner right now.

I'll report back this summer on how well this "internet off time" works out for Ross. I think he's onto a really big deal issue. How big?

Each year about 200,000 new teachers join the workforce. Let's conservatively guess that a quarter of them have big time management problems associated with distraction (constantly checking email, web surfing, etc, instead of methodically working out tomorrow's lesson plan or correcting papers).

Let's say 4 hours per day per teacher goes towards "prep." And let's say that media makes these teachers only half as efficient as they should be.

So each year, the rookie teachers alone lose 50,000 * 4 hours * 50% efficiency * 180 school days = 18 million lost teacher hours. If we value those at $20 per hour, that's $360 million in lost productivity for rookie teachers alone.

Another way to look at it: How much more effective would a typical rookie be if she had:

a) 2 hours extra of sleep and exercise per day b) 2 hours extra to build relationships with kids and parents each day c) 2 hours extra to help strugglers before and after school or d) Some combo of the above?

Stop reading this blog and turn off the internet!