Today I was at a school where teachers fight with students about cell phones. In the staffroom at lunch, teachers were complaining that kids are so devious they sit on their phones, or pretend to be reading, anything to be on their phones when it’s a very specific, important rule in the class that phones are to be away and off.
One teacher said she allows cell phones sometimes, but only when she has an activity that involves phones. Upon hearing this, the rest of the teachers agreed that as long as the teacher has okayed it for an activity it’s fine.
But… why battle the kids?! How hypocritical, no?
I know I always see people sitting around on their phones or computers in meetings! At university, I definitely found myself distracted at times as well.
When I was in high school, one of my teachers (whom I still keep in touch with) did allow us to have our cell phones. There was one class where he had us put our phones in a basket, and to show mutual respect he would put his own phone in the basket. Then we would begin class, mostly discussion, and it was great.
The other class I had with him was History, and there he allowed us to have our phones — his only rule was that the phones had to be out on our desks where he could see them. This was a surprisingly effective approach — it made me want to focus more because I didn’t want him to see me always on my phone. But it was nice because I felt he respected us and understood that we could manage our own behaviour.
I think in my own classroom, especially grades ten to twelve, I will allow cell phones in my class with the same rule. And I will tell them that it’s up to them — they can do what they want, but if they’re caught communicating about anything bullying-related, or anything related to illegal activities, they will need to take full responsibility. I would also discuss that though they can use their phones, I will not be any less strict about deadlines.
I’ve noticed this works. It worked in the English 10 class I had over the summer! Kids appreciate being treated with respect. And after all, responsibility regarding phones is a skill that needs to be taught, not reprimanded as they learn. Fighting it is a losing battle anyway.
What do you think about cell phones in class?