In-Class Cell Phone Use and How to Make Peace with the Issue

An AP teacher I don’t know recently posted this to Facebook:

Cellphones are seriously the bane of my existence! We have rules prohibiting their use in the classroom, but admins do not enforce these rules, so it’s really pointless for teachers to try. Consequently, attempts to either take away a student’s cell phone or to try to get a student to store his/her cell phones out of sight while in class is a nearly impossible battle and, if attempted, often results in serious harm being done to the student/teacher relationship.

With that said, I’m looking for some words of wisdom to help me make peace with this issue. I’m not ready to leave the classroom, but this situation makes teaching really stink a lot of days. Any ideas/thoughts/prayers (LOL)?

Below is a sampling of how various teachers responded to the Facebook post appearing above:

Here’s how I have responded to the teacher looking to make peace with the issue of in-class cell phone use.

Have you ever presented at a teach conference? If not and you one day get a chance, anticipate that no matter how good you are at public speaking half of your audience will be on their cell phones.

Are they tuning you out? Searching up something you said? Responding briefly to an all important text or email? Who knows. It’s just the way it is.

Same true at every faculty meeting I’ve attended in the past ten years. Half the teachers, at any point in time, are either on their cell phone or have their face glued to their laptop. Imagine what that must feel like for an administrator.

So sure, as a classroom teacher you can try putting up pouches and bags and all that, if you think that will “help (you) make peace with this issue.”

But if an admin or teacher conference presenter ever insisted that I bag my phone before being all but forced to listen to their blabber, I’d either place a no longer functioning cell phone in their bag or I’d pop. In other words, I’d do what most kids do when presented with the nonsense of a phone caddy!

That said, I haven’t gone the route of bags and pouches. Nor will I.

So what do I do — I do what my principal does when standing in front of the teachers at a faculty meeting and that is to ask nicely at the outset that cells and ear pods be put away, if only as a sign of respect. Then I do what I do and if I see the phone come out, I ignore it, if only because I don’t want to be accused of being a hypocrite.

At faculty meetings and teacher conferences alike, when I’m in the audience, you bet I take my cell phone out, sometimes just to indicate that the speaker sucks and is thus wasting my time, a totally disrespectful thing to do to any audience member today, given how valuable everyone’s time is.

How do you seek to make peace with in-class cell phone use?



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Peter Paccone

High school APUSH teacher with much in-class and online teaching experience. Also a blogger, keynote speaker, editor, podcast host, and conference presenter.