On cell phones, classrooms and idiots

I suspect that what happened in my classroom today could be used by other members of our staff as evidence that I need to be more vigilant in patrolling our students for cell phones and confiscating them or forcing them to be returned to lockers. And while I don’t actually want this post to be About Cellphones, I think it’s just more evidence that schools have irretrievably lost the battle about cell phones. To be clear, before I get too far ahead of myself: I do think cellphones were used in my classroom today in a way that is a problem. However, I think the problem doesn’t lie with the phones themselves, I think it lies with the people using them– and, worse, the people I’m referring to are the adults, not the kids.

Anyway. I had just gotten class started today in my 3rd-4th hour group, which is my largest by a decent margin and, oh gee what a surprise, also my most disciplinarily problematic by a similarly large margin. Suddenly one of my girls jumped up out of her seat, in tears, and started hollering about how she had to go to the office, and then headed for the door. Like, out of Goddamned nowhere.

I caught up to her just before she actually got out of the room and got her into the hallway to talk to me, and it turned out that there was some sort of sudden family emergency. I’m not clear on the details and don’t see the point of sharing them anyway, but Mom decided that the way to let her daughter know that something horrible had happened with one of her family members was to text her while she was in fucking class and tell her.

So now she’s panicking, my class is blown up, and every fucker in the room knows something’s going on with her family and is bothering her and asking her all sorts of questions. And had it been a teacher other than me whose room this happened in, I can easily imagine it turning into a fucking power struggle over the cell phone and not a quick pass down to the office, which was my reaction– or, if she’d moved faster, an utterly confused call to security, where all I have is so-and-so just got up and ran out and I have no idea where the fuck she went.

PARENTS! I understand why kids have cell phones! My kid is 9 and he will likely have one within a year. Why? Well, he lives in a house with no Goddamned land line, and he’s getting old enough that leaving him at home alone for brief periods of time and/or having him at activities without us is starting to become a conceivable thing, and once those things are happening he needs a way to get ahold of us. I also do not agree that kids should keep their expensive-ass cell phones (or even their cheap burner cell phones) in their lockers, which are not remotely as secure as administration would like us to believe. Nah. Their phones are in their pockets. I don’t love it, but I’ve made my peace with it. Schools lost that battle. So be it.

Don’t fucking call or text your kids when they’re at Goddamned school.

Especially do not call your kids and tell them about family emergencies when they are at school, even if your overarching goal is to get them down to the office so you can pick them up. You call the fucking office, and the office calls for the kid to come down and bring their stuff, and then your kid doesn’t have a fucking panic attack in front of their entire class.

Christ. I need y’all to be smarter than this.

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Luther M. Siler

The author of SKYLIGHTS, THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES and several other books.

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