System Loopholes Add to Problems Like Those Seen At Iroquois

A teacher sent us this additional background on the cell phone issue.

Dear JCPS,
Our cell phone policy is contradictory and ineffective. The directive at the beginning of the school year was that cell phones were completely banned between 7:30 and 2:20. They were not allowed in hallways during passing, not allowed at lunch, not allowed in classrooms. Teachers cannot make exceptions for educational purposes.

If students are on their cell phones, we are supposed to warn them that they are not allowed to be on their cell phones. We are to warn them even if we warned them every day for the last month. If they continue to use their cell phones, we can call for a staff member to come get the student. The student gets to choose whether they want to give up their phone for the rest of the day, or keep their phone and go to ISAP. We must also call the student’s parent if this happens.
There are a number of loopholes in this system. First, it’s tough to keep track of who you have given warnings to today and who you haven’t. It takes extra time out of class to manage that. If a kid gets on their phone anyway (and they usually do, since there’s no effective consequence), then we have to stop class to call for someone to come to my room. We then have to deal with the disruption to class that will cause. Students have learned that the last 5-10 minutes of every class is a free-for-all because there isn’t enough time for someone to come get their phone before the next class. The last class period of the day is the Wild West because worst case scenario if they take your phone, you’ll get it back in a few minutes anyway.
We are supposed to enforce the policy in the hallways during passing. The way this works is the kids walk down the hall with their cell phones in hand and ear buds in their ears. Teachers tell them to put them away. Half of them put their phone down until they’re a few steps past the teacher and then get right back on it. The other half ignore the teachers altogether. Either way, there will be no administration enforcement so the exercise serves no purpose except making teachers look futile and powerless.
The day after the incident with the teacher at Iroquois, I kept track of my class with the worst phone issues. Students were working on group projects. At the beginning of class, I told students to put their phones away (this is how I have to start every class, since there are usually quite a few in use after the bell despite the ban). I gave the class instructions on what they should be doing, and told them that anything requiring technology should be done on the chromebooks I had checked out for their use. I again repeated that students should not have cell phones out for any reason (it’s November but I still have to explicitly state this classroom expectation that has not changed since August). Within the first five minutes, I had to warn EIGHT students to put away their cell phones. By the end of class, TWELVE phones had to be confiscated in a class of 27 students.
The next day, it starts all over again. The same kids who were on their phones the day before have to be told again that it’s against the rules, and to put their phones away.
Every day, they get angry and offended by being told to put their phones away. The warnings just tell a kid how long he can stay on his phone before the possibility of a minor consequence might occur. It’s exhausting to keep up with. But God forbid you don’t give a warning to that kid that you’ve had to tell to put their phone away every school day for the past four months, because if you don’t then the kid, the parent, and admin will raise hell with you.
It doesn’t matter how engaging a lesson is, the kids wouldn’t notice because they’re blasting their music and messaging their friends on snapchat. Every time I tell a kid to put their phone away, every time I call to have their phone taken, I know I’m running the risk of disrupting my class, or setting up a violent reaction. Best case scenario, I’m losing precious minutes of instructional time pursuing a policy that is not working.
I don’t have the answers, but this ain’t it.

Anonymous HS Teacher

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