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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Totally Unprofessional:
Cell Phones in the Classroom

I was at an event when a cell phone started playing a tune. Someone remarked on the tune and the owner of the cell phone, a teacher in a girls' high school, proceeded to tell the group how she pays a dollar to download different rings on her cell phone because it entertains her students when her phone goes off in class.

Well, let me tell you. . . . I am NOT entertained. Not only am I not entertained, but I am angry. Parents pay $15,000 a year for this? This is so unprofessional that I don't even know where to begin. And I know this is no isolated case: she isn't the only teacher with a cell phone attached to at the hip and ear during class time (although I do hope she is the only one wasting funds on the downloads).

Such interruptions basically guarantee that the precious little time in class that is not already wasted by tardiness, behavior, bureaucracy, or other events, is interrupted by breaking up the flow.

A friend of mine defended teachers having cell phones in the classroom saying there could be an emergency. This friend is a good deal younger than me (especially in 'tech time'), so perhaps she has forgot that schools have a secretary sitting at the front desk whose responsibility it is to answer the phone.

Back in the old days, we all managed somehow. I think we should demand cell phone free classrooms, both teachers and students.


Anonymous said...

As an elementary school teacher, it also pains me to see staff answering and placing calls during school. Each staff member has a lunch period as well as a planning period when students are out of his/her care each day. Except for emergencies, teachers shouldn't use cell (or other) phones while students are under their care.

~ Sarah ~ said...

I agree with you. When I was in high school (not that long ago really), we had a teacher whose mobile phone rang during class and with some of the teachers, their teaching wasn't so brilliant... less interruptions the better so we could possibly get something out of their lessons.

And, on top of that, it's a bad example for the students.

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

if she really feels that she needs the phone for an emergency, let her at least keep it on vibrate. also, she only has to pick it up if she recognizes the number of someone who might really be calling with an emergency (e.g., a child's school).

"schools have a secretary sitting at the front desk whose responsibility it is to answer the phone."

if the administration is not nice, getting phone calls through the secretary can be a problem (as i know from my wife)

mother in israel said...

I hope she submits a receipt to the school for the downloading, as an educational expense.

Mike S. said...

Even the secretary can interrrupt too often sometimes. I recall getting pulled out of a meeting with a major customer by my secretary because my (high school) daughter's school nurse was on the phone. Conversation went something like this:

Your daughter had an allergic reaction to something in the cafeteria.

And, ...?

I gave her some benedryl.

What do you want me to do?

I just thought it was important for you to know.

For that she couldn't have just left a message or sent an e-mail?

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree about it being inappropriate for teachers to allow their cell phones to ring during class time, however I wish to take note of something else you wrote.

Specifically, why do you think that it's any of your business what your child's teacher chooses to spend her money on? If she wishes to spend a dollar a day (or ten dollars a day) on ring tones, what gives you the right to judge (and discuss) her? Because you pay the tuition that goes toward her salary?

That comment of yours is one of the reasons why teaching (and being a Rabbi) can be so unpleasant: Too often, you become a "topic of conversation," amongst parents, students, and shul members.

Aside from the lashon hara aspects, it's something that many of us find intrusive and distateful.

Mike S. said...


I think the point is not that Sephardi Lady cares what the teacher spends money on, it is that she expects the teacher's full attention to be on teaching during class time, not on talking to whoever might be on the phone.

She has every right to expect that.

Jewish Blogmeister said...

certainly very inappropriate and would make me upset as well. I'm not sure where loshon hora plays a part in this piece. Yes it's certainly anyones right to childish. Though no one is mentioning any names here.

SephardiLady said...

First off, I'm happy I do not have a high schooler, because I just will not pay to have this type of unprofessional behavior in the classroom.

Secondly, if the schools would just institute a common sense policy (no cell phones, IPods, etc) in the classroom, then we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

Our children look to their teachers as role models, whether we like it or not. Technology has a ton of pluses. But the idea that someone needs to be reached at all times is not one of the pluses. The near worship of technology or what I call "cell phone fashion" (i.e. downloading rings, cell phone charms, etc) is not one of them.

Our children deserve better. There is no need to interupt the already miniscule time they have to learn with extra distractions.

I appreciate the comments of all my readers. Happy ringing. I will be discussing cell phones in the classroom with all schools in the future.

RaggedyMom said...

When I taught in public school, teachers could be 'written up' for having a cell phone ring in the classroom (usually not if it was just a one-time mistake) unless there was some kind of emergency they'd cleared in advance. Sometimes, particularly as a specialty teacher who "pushed in" to other classrooms, it was problematic for the office to locate me, and I could imagine that it may have been the case if I'd had kids at home at the time.

Ariella said...

I couldn't agree with you more, SL. I started teaching college a long time ago. So at the beginning cell phones were still rare. But then they became ubiquitous, and some students would take and receive calls during class time. (Some would claim they have to b/c they had kids, but you know what, so did I) Talk about disruptive and disrespectful behavior!

moah kemo efroah said...

mike s.

i completely disagree about the benadryl (which my son needs every so often because of food allergies). how old is your daughter?

Mike S. said...

Ari-what do you disagree with? My point was she interrupted me to tell me what happened after it was too late for me to have any input or do anything. What was the urgency about that? If I found out when I got a message a hour later what would the difference be?

And she was 15 or 16 at the time.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Unthinkable, literally. I wouldn't have imagined such a thing if you hadn't reported it. And the teacher isn't embarrassed to tell you this?! Someone so clueless about respect for students, for education, for TORAH is not who I would want teaching my children.

How is this different from students bringing a Walkman or games to class (yes, I'm that old)? And this disgusting behaviour is widespread? Hashem have mercy on us...

Off the type of my head, I would say it is setting a terrible example, it is disrespectful of the students, it is a question of theft (the teacher isn't being paid to take calls on class time), it is a denigration of the Torah, it is probably a chillul Hashem.

I've tried to be a little hesitant in my judgement here. This is an outrage.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Mike S, Shalom!

I'm going to slip the flight medic's hat on over my kippa for a moment here (or tuck my tzitzit into my flight suit?)...

Re: the school nurse and benadryl. One thing is, allergic reactions can actually be deadly. If the school nurse was the least bit unsure about your daughter's history (does she have a previous history of anaphylaxis, etc?), it might have been important. Suppose, for instance, your response had been "oh my! Last time she was in the hospital for hours recovering!" Then the nurse would have needed to be a lot more aggressive. The other piece is, I don't know what's required where you are. I did a short stint of school nursing twice as a student. If we had to medicate a student with something other than their own regular meds, we were required to notify the parent or guardian as soon afterwards as possible. The school nurse may have just been following protocol, and employing caution in looking out for her patient.

As for cell phones in the classroom: the more I think about it, the more indignant I get. They should not be allowed. Period. (My wife added one more problem to the list I mentioned above: it is just plain rude.) What's really bad here is that it should be clearly understood even without a 'policy' that this is wrong. I don't know if it is angering, or pitiful.

SephardiLady, is there any chance that this teacher is unusual and had a special compelling reason for the phone in class?

Mike S. said...


I hear you, but I don't agree. The beginning of the year health form has a specific section on allergies and treatment. Including permission to dispense benadryl if needed. And when I have seen allergic reactions that head toward anaphalaxis, it has always been very rapid. My daughter gets hives and itchy; by the time she saw my daughter, much less called me, the nurse surely knew that my daughter was not in any danger. If the policy is to notify parents, which I approve, that could have been done by e-mail or leaving a message with my secretary. In fact, if they wanted my immediate reaction for some reason, they could have told my secretary what happened. She could have passed me a note an I would have been able to decide whether I needed to call immediately. Other school nurses I have dealt with have had the sense to say whether or not there was an emergency when they called.

SephardiLady said...

SephardiLady, is there any chance that this teacher is unusual and had a special compelling reason for the phone in class?

Not that I know of. Perhaps being related to an administrator makes her situation unique. Or perhaps the "hashkafah" that the children need entertained.

All I know now is that if we ever end up in this school (unlikely), that I will be at the forefront for banning electronic devices on campus. Besides the calculator, I just don't see a purpose.

Tamiri said...

I was at a PTA meeting and the teacher's phone kept ringing. I did not have a problem with that, since she is a mother first (hopefully) and a teacher second. She did not answer the calls, but kept checking the ID number.
I think you are being unfair to teachers. When you think about it, everyone else sits at a desk, or works in a garage or something and has a cell phone or land line at their disposal all the time. Why should a teacher be diff? (Just playing devil's advocate here). For the record: I think it's cute (albeit stupid) that the Morah is willing to spend money like that to entertain her students. I see it as a kind gesture.

SephardiLady said...

Tamiri-I guess we are entitled to disagree once in a while. :)
I find cell phones highly distracting.

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

mike s.

my son is much younger and it seems like the allergy-related health concerns are not exactly the same. i also don't have much faith in my son's school to do what needs to be done.

Mike S. said...

If the nurse had interrrupted me to ask what to do, I wouldn't have minded at all. She probably should have done so. Presumably she is not so incompetant (I hope) to give benadryl if there is a risk on anaphalaxis; the proper treatment then would be an injection of adrenaline. So she was interrupting about something she clearly considered not to be an emergency, after it was too late for any information I had to affect the treatment.