Cell Phones (again)

This article appeared in today's Times' about cell phone usage in schools. This stuff just drives me crazy. There had been another article previous to this in the Times and a letter to the editor said it all, "Who's in charge - the kids or the school?"

One of the key issues here (and I'll probably write a related post based on a meeting I attended this week about underage drinking in northeast schools in Seattle) is ...parents. What is up with parents and this need to be able to reach your child at all times? Your child is at school; find out what time their lunch hour is and call then. It's the same with the district and the school administrator. If you have a policy, enforce it. Tell teachers "this means you" and do not allow differences from class to class. As a parent of a teen, I can tell you that the minute there are "exceptions" teenagers crack that loophole wide open.

This is a good article because it talks about the myths of cell phones at schools. Like number one is "teachers don't like gadgets". Under this myth there was this:

"Students don't wear watches anymore, preferring to use cellphone clocks, Fox-Bailey said." Hey kids, that big thing on the wall? It's called a clock.

"When students work on group projects, he tells them to get out their cellphones and swap numbers. Some download audio books or vocabulary lists to review on iPods."

Okay, fine, this is the world of education with today's technology. But all the teacher has to say is "Do not take out your cell phone until I tell you to for any class-related work."

"He allows students to listen to music in class during free reading time. "Some kids can't read unless they have something to distract them from the ambient noise," he said."

I heard this from Eckstein teachers and I don't buy it. It is a distraction and it turns the classroom into the haves and have nots. What is this coddling of students? They can't work unless all conditions are perfect for them?

"Students use electronics as "a way to accessorize their identity," Fox-Bailey said. "This is how they express themselves." "

They can do this to their hearts content outside the classroom.

Myth: phones are the worst. From a middle school principal in the article:

"There's a lot of stuff out there," said Tom Duenwald, principal at Bellevue's Tillicum Middle School. "I don't want to spend all my time policing electronic devices. What really matters to us is instructional class time."

Yeah, and that's why you DO spend time on policies with clear expectations and consequences. The class time is for naught if the kids are not on task. You aren't teaching if kids aren't focused.

The article also discusses real problems with cellphones:

"They're also put to more nefarious purposes. "We have had students text each other back and forth about tests," noted Bellevue's Odle Middle School Assistant Principal Alexa Allman in an e-mail. Anderson, who estimates more than 70 percent of Skyview's students own phones, found students using camera phones to capture test pages."

In addition, I had read about problems in schools in other states where they had to ban the use of cellphones in locker rooms and bathrooms because of the problem of students taking intimate pictures of other students.

Again, why is this so hard? It's not banning cellphones from schools. Many parents and students do need to keep in contact. But no one needs to use or check their cell phone in class. If districts and principals do not create and enforce policies that protect all students' rights to learning in a classroom, then where does it end?


Christina said…
I agree that parents have a responsibility to pattern cellphone use. It scares me to have to share the road with people who engage in cellphone chatter while they're commandeering a large motorized vehicle. Even my kindergartner recognizes they're "driving drunk" and understands when to use a telephone and when not to. Kids aren't going to learn proper phone etiquette by the "gee, my phone call is more important than this working mom travelling in the opposite lane as I'm trying to cut her off making my left turn" parent. Hang up and drive = hang up and study.
California just passed a law that no one under 18 can use a cell phone while driving.
Anonymous said…
My child is at Kellogg MS in Shoreline, and I can tell you they are strict, strict, strict about ipods and cell phones. The rules are if we see it we take it, except at lunch time. My son says every one of his teachers went over the rule, and he says that the kids follow the rule. Thank goodness.

He was at Salmon Bay last year, where classrooms were free for alls. Almost anything goes there. It was so overwhelmingly distracting (along with talking, yelling, and daily behavior breakdowns) that he literally could not work in that environment.

I also have a child at Bryant elementary. Thank goodness the elementary kids don't seem to be into ipods or cell phones yet! Last year he decided to wear a magnetic earing to class. That afternoon I received it back in a sealed envelope with a note from his teacher that said "please keep the earing at home, it caused a lot of distractions in the classroom today"

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I think school is school, and teachers have every right to enforce an environment conducive to learning (for all). That means order, respect, and rules!!!
WenG said…
I recall a comment from the first article, where a teacher said that parents felt their kids were entitled to use phones at school because they already paid for the plan. This kind of entitlement floors me.

I don't care how much the parents paid for a family plan. I don't want my kids to be distracted by gadgets during class. I'll fully support any teacher who says "No phones or headphones in my class."

When I go to a hospital, library, or a co-worker's office, I turn off my phone. If I was sneaking pictures in a bathroom or IMing my friends all day while at work, I'd be fired. If I insisted on taking calls during a dental cleaning, my hygienist would fire me as a patient. I can't accept that phones and iPods are the modern replacements for note passing in class.

Civility through self-control is a basic skill. We generally start teaching it in kindy. By middle school, I realize it’s a time when a lot of rebellion and testing waters begins. Fine. Test all you want, learn through experience, and then define yourself through your actions and words. You don't really have to accessorize your identity with a Blackberry.
Jet City mom said…
re learning conditions-obviously you don't have a child who has learning challenges. It is very difficult to concentrate with a noisy classroom- even having headphones on, without being plugged into anything would help-

Re telling time-
all the clocks in a building are set differently- some don't work- some may even be correct, but many buildings don't have new digital clocks that sync with the office clock.

My daughter also cannot read an analog clock, she is 17 but she is dyslexic-

What my older daughters teacher used to do if a cell phone rang in class was go over and answer it, he may even have taken it for the rest of the day/year.

If students can't remember to turn their phones off- I suggest dropping them in a box when entering the classroom & retrieving them afterwards-Even a teacher who has difficulty with discipline could handle that.
Actually, I do have a child with learning challenges. But why would the class be noisy if the kids are reading/working silently? What does that say about the teacher who cannot assign that type of work with the expectation that the class will work quietly?
WenG said…
classof75 at 9:28:
I understand the need to tune out as much as the need to end distractions. I'm not sure a teacher can have it both ways, unless it's a very small or cohesive class where kids respect one another's needs. If you're working in groups on projects, if it's not silent reading or writing time, I can see flexibility. What's I'm addressing are kids who wear headphones non-stop, to tune out *everything* around them, with the volume up so high you can still hear what they're listening to.

I think it should be easy for schools to set a standard and stick with it.
Jet City mom said…
One of the problems in the high schools- with the regular- honors- AP classes, is that if you are really wanting to work hard- you may have to take an AP class, even if you are not at that level, because those classes are more likely to have students who take it seriously.

Some of the regular classes- can be a joke at times- it only takes one student to totally disrupt the class & if it is a newish teacher, as is often the case with the regular level classes, it can be a steep learning curve to develop the skills needed to curb that sort of behavior.

I don't see why kids need to take ipods to school- yes I can see them using them on the bus, but not in school & certainly not in class- that is ridiculous.

All this technology is new & we still have to develop common sense guidelines for use & if people can't use common sense on their own- like not using when driving- when at the checkout counter or in class then we need to state guidelines for them

We are not helping kids by not demanding that they adhere to modes of behavior they will need in the workplace-
Sadly, '75 your point about student behavior and type of classes was confirmed to me by a counselor (school unnamed). I had complained about the noise level in the class I visited (which amazed me that the kids would continue on even with a stranger in the class) and the counselor told me when my son got into more advanced classes that those students are more serious and the classes are quieter.

This is just one counselor but I have to wonder.
Anonymous said…
Proper classroom behavior is proper classroom behavior -- it shouldn't depend on the level of work the students are doing. Incidentally, honors students are just as capable of chaos under an incompetent teacher: I've heard a lot of depressing stories in that vein.

Helen Schinske
Dan Dempsey said…
Dear Class of 75,

In regard to classroom disruption and the new teacher:

RCW 28A 600.020 states that the teacher may suspend from class for that day and two additional days any disruptive student. To classify as a disruptive student if a student is given one warning and they continue to disrupt the class - they are gone for the day and two more if the teacher so chooses.

The State Law says so. However in many schools the admin will fail to enforce this law by supporting the teacher.

No we have many disrupted learning situations because school administrators and even school board members seem to prefer it that way.


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