Monday, May 11, 2015

A Teacher's Rant on Smart Phones in the Classroom

Still collecting these from my students...I tell ya, Gov Cuomo and friends need to take this epidemic into account when they think about rating teachers.

This blog post is a rant, and a well-founded one that I've never heard anyone ever talk about when it comes to the state of our educational system today.  I posted the above picture and caption on my Facebook page today.  It got a few likes, but I think it needs even more attention...  

As you can imagine, over the past several years, smart phones have become a problem in school.  For those who subscribe to the role technology can play in the classroom, the widespread ownership of these devices that we have today can be a boon for learning.  With literally a world of information at our fingertips, that can most certainly ring true, and it is to some degree.  But with today's learner, the learning that goes on via these smart phones is not what it could or should be.  Smart phones are more of a distraction than anything else, and something needs to be done about them, especially if we teachers are going to get bum raps for these kiddies not learning much else other than how to post a Snapchat.  

Cell phones have always been a problem in my classroom.  I can't tell you how many times a day I catch someone with their arms down by their lap, heads bowed, and clearly typing away at their screen.

What are you doing?  I always ask.

Nothing.  They always answer.

I tell you, if it happens in my little classroom, it's happening everywhere.  This year, I instituted a new rule to deter my students from pulling their little devices out during the times when I'm teaching. First of all, if they want to use their phone for school work, that's fine, but they have to ask me first. That's fair, no?  If they do get caught using their phones, texting or checking Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, I not only take it away, I take all of the students' phones for the remainder of the period. Three violations and their parents have to come in and meet with the principal to get it back.    

The idea of taking everyone's phones is that the anger resulting in my confiscations will be directed at the violating student, not me.  Genius, right?  Ha ha, I thought so.  During the school year, I've had to take them away countless times already, but either they've been pretty good lately or I've been tired of following through, because I haven't had to take too many away...until today, when I couldn't take it anymore.  

There she was, one of my 9th graders, sitting there in the back of the classroom typing away at her phone right on her desk.  She was sitting behind a bigger kid, so my view was initially obstructed, but once I saw...give it to me!  You see, even with an ingenious plan such as mine, it is still a daily occurrence.  

The use of smart phones in school, well everywhere really, is an epidemic!  But kids are in school to learn.  We teachers get paid to teach, and when students missed the homework you gave out or fail to answer a question because they were distracted while you were asking it, that is a problem.  

When you take the cells away, the kids argue that their parents won't be able to reach them.  Heck, even parents will argue that!  That's part of the reason they're allowed in school to begin with.  God, I remember the days when I was in school.  If my mom needed me for whatever reason, she'd call the head office and they'd come find me.  It's not rocket science.  

Perhaps it's just a sign of the changing times.  But in today's world of mega-testing and teacher accountability, especially in New York, how can I be held responsible if my students are constantly distracted by their cell phones?  I mean, c'mon, there are enough issues in schools and student learning that we shouldn't have to deal with this problem.  Governor Cuomo, are you listening?    

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