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:
- No cell phones in my classroom. If I see them, I take them, telling the kids you can have them back at the end of the day. Cell phone use in class interferes with learning and is disrespectful.
- I would never take away a student’s cell phone only because I do not want to be held responsible if the phone were to get broken somehow. So what I do is let them have them on their desks face down (except during tests). And if they do get on their phones while they should be working, I just tell them to get off of their phones. That works well for me. Students, I’ve found, don’t respond as well to teachers who make a huge issue out of in-class cell phone usage.
- If they have their cells out, I don’t say or do anything. If they want to be on their phones, earbuds, whatever, during class and, as a result, miss out on instruction, that is on them.
- I tie it all to their participation grades. “If I see it out,” I tell ’em, “you lose your participation points for the day. Period!”
- For the last ten years or so, I have used a numbered wall pocket/calculator chart. Each student has an assigned pocket. The kids can see their phones up there, and I never have to touch them. I hang the chart at the front of the room and use it to take roll. If a phone isn’t in a student’s pocket, I count that student absent. I make a paper grid with the names and numbers for each class. Occasionally, I have to remind one or two kids who “forget,” but it has worked very well. I start this procedure on the first day of school and continue it all year long. There is a long power strip under the chart, so they can charge phones during class. I give them their phones during weather emergencies, and if a student has a special circumstance or family emergency, they may keep their phones with permission.
- I too have turned to a phone caddy to deal with the issue. It hangs in the front of my room, so everyone can see their phones at all times, but they can’t be on them. I offer chargers on the windowsill only, and if they plug in their phones, there is a card to put in the pocket
- I try to circulate a lot whether I’m presenting or it’s flexible work time, and if I see a phone out I will just stop and ask the cell phone using student this question: “is it helping or distracting?” Most respond appropriately. If not, I just remind them of what they’re supposed to be doing and leave it up to natural consequences.
- With my 9th and 10th graders, in particular, the cell is a horrible distraction that causes students to miss work and not understand directions. So I require my 9th and 10th graders to place their cell phones at the start of class into a clear “pencil pouch zip bag” tied to the bottom of each desk. Kids can check them and see them, but they have to leave them in there.
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?