Are We Giving Students What They Need or What We Want?

Recently the topic of student cell phones came up in a Facebook group that I participate in. The majority of teachers in the discussion were going to great lengths to stop their students from using, or even having, their cell phones. Some were creating these elaborate “phone jails” or other cute little places for students to deposit their phones during class. And I mean no disrespect to those teachers who are putting their efforts into these devices, but I have to ask… WHY??? 

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I teach high school and I realize that this mindset might not be practical in the younger grades. But even in the high school I see a lot of teachers who have strict “no phone in sight” policies. And I just don’t get it. I don’t feel like it’s realistic or a good use of my time to play phone police. I peek at my own phone from time to time, I can’t then turn around and reprimand a student for doing the same thing. And yes, I do have young kids at home…. so I could say “I am just checking to make sure everything’s ok.” Except that 95% of the time, I’m not. And I don’t think I’m alone in that…. So it makes me wonder, are we banning phones just because it makes classroom management easier? And if so, are we doing a disservice to our students? 

Having said that- yes, student phones are a pain in the butt and many times a giant distraction in the classroom. But when these students leave us and *fingers crossed* get jobs, do you think they’ll walk into work and ask where they should put their phone? Do you think they’ll just magically be able to control their behaviors when they are set loose? Nope. Just like everything else, they have to be taught when and how to use their phone. And for that reason, I let my kids keep their phones- often times right on their desks. I see them flip to the screen from time to time. I do not panic. If it becomes a distraction, I walk past them and tap on the phone… “too much”. And they stop. If it continues, I might take it and then we have a chat after class. AND I AM HAPPY TO CONTACT PARENTS. “I want to make sure everything is ok with so-and-so, he/she’s awfully distracted in class lately.” And that’s that. 

“What about kids using them inappropriately?” I have been SnapChatted by a student (actually, she posted a video of me telling her to put her phone away, brilliant….). Students are pretty sneaky…. and there’s no way I’m going to stay ahead of them. But that’s part of teaching them what they can and cannot get away with. It’s a conversation that needs to be had ahead of time. And if students do abuse the privilege, they have to pay the consequences. It’s just something some kids have to learn the hard way.  

Still not sure about setting the kids free with their phones? How about this compromise: give them chargers. My kids are always asking if they can plug their phones in, which means they are not in their hands. This year, I’m thinking of setting up a charging station. Totally optional- use it whenever you want to. But once it’s plugged in it stays there til the bell rings (because it’s inappropriate to be running back and forth to check your texts). I haven’t worked out all the details yet, but this could be as simple as setting a power strip on the counter that they can bring their own charger to (you can get two for $7 on Amazon!) or maybe even bringing in the chargers (Here‘s a 5 USB port charger for $13!). I love this sign from Mis Clases Locas to remind students of charger etiquette: 

sign

And if I’m feel really energetic, I might even get one of these shoe organizers (It’s $6, so why not?). I could poke holes in the back and put phone chargers through… because I know ALL my kids will want to plug in! Ok, maybe not… but they look nicer than a power cord on the counter. Check out this one from The Teal Paperclip:

Capture

What is your classroom phone policy? I know many teachers don’t agree with mine, but I’d love to discuss more… leave your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for stopping by! =)

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