I thought about discussing this issue in a diplomatic way, but I decided that there are times that I do need to “be unreasonable”. Usually I am very easy going; I love to listen and help people, but when teachers are upset about kids having cell phones, I am often a little annoyed. I have studied leadership styles and do tend to favor Greenleaf’s servant leadership, focusing on listening and empathy, but when teachers complain about kids and their cell phones, while carrying their own in their pocket, it really irritates me. I do believe that there are some rules which are different for kids and adults, but not too many. I teach 50% of the time, so I’m not just sitting in my office telling teachers that it isn’t an issue. (I’m really not saying that’s what full time administrators doJ.)
I had my first student cell phone encounter about a year and a half ago, before there was any real discourse on the topic. The student’s phone rang, and he looked at me with sheepish eyes. I politely asked him if it was an emergency and he said not really. I told him that I didn’t want to see or hear it again in class, and if it was an emergency then he could leave it on and set it to vibrate. He could then be asked to be excused and he could take his call outside of the classroom. At that time his brother was involved in a serious court case. That was the end of that, and I know this boy still carries his phone every day to school. I have never had an issue with him again. (And as a VP, I deal with discipline; I’ve never heard of those behavior specialists… sigh)
I think that if we treat kids, regardless of their age, with respect, the same way that you or I want and expect to be treated, then they will. Of course, there will be times that they falter, the same way that we all can. I have engaged in regular discussions with kids regarding the use of cell phones, and they understand the issues better than we do. They don’t want people cheating and they don’t want their pictures/videos taken without permission any more than we do. In my classroom, we come up with the rules together, and then they help enforce them. I make it sound so simple, but it isn’t always this easy. I’ve been in a few debates with kids, but in the end we usually agree on the important issues.
Now, let’s hear yours.