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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cell Phones In The Classroom (Revisited)

Once again I return to a topic from the past after tesyaa made mention of a teacher's cell phone ringing in her child's class (thankfully, the teacher didn't pick it up and begin to chat which, sadly, is not unheard of). She has given up and isn't going to make a fuss as prior experiences have left her with the impression it isn't worth the effort.

I quickly recalled a previous post of mine about a teacher who downloads different ringtones to entertain her class when her cell phone goes off (!). I don't have any investment in either tesyaa's school or the school mentioned in my previous post. But I do believe that our children deserve a classroom that is free from such artificial distractions. There are enough distractions as it is. Adding cell phones to that list just need not be.

I know we have to pick our battles carefully. I'm not in anyone's shoes, but I think that this is a battle I'd probably choose, especially because another friend of mine who taught in a girls high school was telling me about her struggles with students texting in class. I'm still unconvinced that a high schooler needs a cell phone anyways (cell phones providers still do sell cell phones that can call only a handful of numbers, do they not?). If they are necessary, there should be very little tolerance for them in the classroom both on the end of teachers and students.

Parents: What is the cell phone policy for teachers in your school? What about students? More importantly, is this policy enforced? And, lastly, would you be calling the office about this issue, or would you leave it alone?

Also, Shana Tovah if I don't have a chance to wish before Yom Tov.


SquarePeg613 said...

I would not call the office about Tesyaa's experience either. If it was important enough to me, I would call the teacher. But I probably wouldn't call the teacher either, unless she did this repeatedly. For a one-off occurence, I would leave it.

Staying Afloat said...

Ditto. Exactly. I have to say that my kids see their teacher's phones all the time because they use them as watches (as do I). But they've never mentioned them ringing, and they would if it happened.

Students are allowed to have the phones in school but not take them out during the school day. This makes sense to me, though it's hard to enforce.

Ariella said...

Cell phones should not be out in the classroom where they distract people's attention. Some businesses have a policy that bars employees from using cell phones while on duty; the same should apply to teachers and students.
I don't think I ever took a call while teaching. I have had the displeasure of teaching students who claim they need to answer the phone because it may be their kids. One woman even kind of crawled under her desk while carrying on her conversation during class. (This was the class that was paid to go to school as if they were at work by Verizon, and they totally abused the system.)

SephardiLady said...

A no cell phones out policy is sure to be violated, as were the no passing notes policy. But cell phones aren't notes. I'd rather go back to the old days when you had to take pen to paper to write a note to a friend in class.

Ariella-One wonders just what we did before cell phones? Somehow we managed in the dark ages.

Sima said...

In the school where I teach, the teachers need to have cell phones in the room as there is no intercom system -- for safety reasons, we must have a way to reach the principal/office. However, we are not permitted to use our cell phones in the classroom, nor are we permitted to text. None of the students in my small school have phones, but I doubt bringing one to school would be tolerated if they did.

rosie said...

I recently saw a news item about a public school high school teacher who was fined $22,000 for answering a cell while on duty. She was on the phone for 4 minutes. How did she get caught? A student posted a picture of her on the phone on U-tube, facebook, something like that and the principal saw it.

Staying Afloat said...

I hear you on the phone no-show policy being impractical. But what do you do about the kids who need them to be in touch with their parents, such as those who have to be met at buses in other towns?

Plus, I agree about a lot of classrooms not having intercoms or phones. Bu then the teacher's phone doesn't have to be on.

Avi said...

While I wish she had remembered to set her phone on vibrate and she definitely should have turned the ringer off once a call came in, this just doesn't bother me that much. If she'd taken the call and shmoozed with her friend, that would bother me.

Our elementary school's cellphone policy is that students can have phones, but they must be off during the day and can only be used on the bus, and even then just to call parents. It's certainly effective in the younger grades where none of the kids have phones. I don't know how well it works once the kids hit fifth or sixth grade; 11 year olds with phones is fairly common in the U.S.

Ariella said...

Cell phones are ubiquitous, forcing all types of strategies from schools and yeshivas that do not wish to have total anarchy in the classroom and Bais Medrash. Some dorming yeshivas have a policy requiring students to turn in their cell phone for most of the week. They are allowed to have them in their possession only on certain days. But the students have learned to outsmart this system. What they do is swipe an extra cell phone from home and hand that one into the office while retaining their own phones. Psst, don't let your teen read this if s/he hasn't already figured out the trick.

ProfK said...

The problem here is not the teacher; it's the lack of a stated policy on the part of the school administration. You aren't going to be able to ban cell phone possession, as some of the comments above show. What you can do is regulate how they are used while ALL people are in a class or school.

My students are not allowed to have their cell phones on, not even on vibrate, while in class. They may not have their cell phones on their person--they have to be tucked into a backpack or other container. If I catch a student with a visible cell phone, that phone ends up on my desk until class is over.

And yes, I follow the same rule. Everyone knows that when I am teaching that's the only thing I'm doing. In case of a real emergency those who might need to reach me have the school number and the school secretary can always come and get me. The same goes for my students.

Cell phone technology has brought with it a societal attitude I hate, the idea that we all MUST be reachable 24/7 for any and all reasons, regardless of what else we are doing. So no, cell phones have no place within a classroom. And, by the way, they sure have no place in someone's hand while that someone is driving 50 mph on the Freeway or is manouevering on a crowded street.

Lion of Zion said...


" What they do is swipe an extra cell phone from home and hand that one into the office while retaining their own phones."

same story with the camps


"One wonders just what we did before cell phones? Somehow we managed in the dark ages."

what did we do before internet, novicaine, automobile, etc.

technology is not bad. just how we use it can be bad.

SephardiLady said...

Cell phone technology has brought with it a societal attitude I hate, the idea that we all MUST be reachable 24/7 for any and all reasons, regardless of what else we are doing.

I agree completely. I am constantly reminding one family member that I don't need to always answer my (landline) phone because I don't always need to be available at the very moment I am "needed," but that I do return calls and that leaving a message will merit a call back.

Mike S. said...

1) If the teacher lacks the judgment to know when to turn off the phone without a stated policy, he or she has no business in the classroom. If the school office can be counted on to quickly relay emergency messages, there is no reason for it ever to be on, but if not (for instance they laid off the secretary in favor of a voice mail system) sometimes one does need to be reachable; suppose the teachers wife is 9 months pregnant.

2) I have a much harder time understanding why a student needs a phone on. However, I do understand why they sometimes need one. I resisted giving mine phones until one of them (this was years ago) was stranded in the school driveway by a bus driver who left early one Friday leaving my daughter and several others in the school driveway. The building was locked and the kids were unable to attract the attention of the adults still inside. They were stranded in a suburban area 10 miles from home and several from public transit until they could wave down a motorist who would let them call. When I was a kid there were payphones in commercial areas and people at home in residential ones for emergencies. There aren't anymore.

LeahGG said...

If the teacher didn't take the call, I don't think it's a problem - anyone can forget to turn the phone off/silent once.

As for highschoolers having phones, it really depends on their lifestyle, who picks them up, etc.

LeahGG said...

(the phone doesn't need to be on during class hours for a highschooler though, unless it's a special occasion - like mom or sister is in labor or something like that)

Anonymous said...

SL: Just wanted to wish you and your family a sweet new year. Thanks for the great work you do on this blog all year long.

Anonymous said...

p.s. - and the same to all your readers.

SephardiLady said...

Shana Tovah to you too!

Anonymous said...

At the school I worked at, the teachers were not supposed to answer their phones during class, but many did despite the rule. One teacher even took class time to arrange of catering for her son's bar mitzvah.
By the way her kids were also give half scholarships at the school because she was a teacher with "tenure."
Happy New Year!!!

Charlie Hall said...

NYC public schools prohibit students from having cell phones -- period.

mlevin said...

ProfK - Aren't you teaching college? I think it is very disrespectful and selfcentered of you to think that adults who are paying for this course need to be treated like children and be told what to do with their phones during your class. There are family and job emergencies which need that student's attention. You may suggest no talking during class (but that's understood) but texting and e-mailing and answering phone by walking outside the room are all acceptable options.

What we did before cell phones? Whenever I needed to take a class, I would make sure that there is a phone in the classroom or in the vicinity and have my beeper on. My job required me to be on call and available 24/7. And it was quite often that I was called away during class. Operators at work were always called and notified at which number I could be reached within this particular time. Even when I was on vacation, far away in the adirondaks, I was reachable by pay phone or owner of the place. Now days with new technology, it is no longer necessary to inform work about the nearest phone number where I could be reached.