I’m the pushing sixty guy, who still likes the one-knob tuner in the car radio, a phone conversation that can’t be interrupted by a beep of an in-coming call, and a sidewalk discussion that does not have to compete with digital distractions. It has always been important to me to give a person my undivided attention. In that light, one can deduce that despite my better judgment I still experience sidewalk ‘O, I gotta’ take this”interposes as disrespectful and rude. My head tells me to not be offended and simply accept this scenario as a trend of the times, but my heart feels like a second-hand rose. Now, with a confession like that, how do I handle the use of cell phones and corner conversations in the classroom?
The first day of class I tell the students that this place will be a sanctuary. It will be like a bird sanctuary where each feathered friend can sing its song without fear of danger and with the knowledge that his/her song will be heard. The students will need to partner with one another to maintain the sanctuary experience. A commitment to this partnership will create the kind of positive educational environment that complements someone’s financial investment. Part of the listening process is to, in Buddhist terms, “be where you are.” This means that anything that takes us away from the priority of tuning in to one another must be turned off. This action shows respect. To thwart off temptation I ask them to put all cell phones in their pockets. Pocketbooks must be slung over the chair or put on the floor. I let them know that if I see someone using the cell phone or texting it will be interpreted as a sign that this person does not want to participate in the educational process on that day. I will kindly ask him/her to leave upon the first offense. This will not be done with anger, facial expressions of disgust, or raised voice. I will simply stand beside the individual, make my request, and close with an open invitation to attend the next session. Students were asked to leave on two occasions this semester. I have decided that if a student refuses to leave I will offer him/her the option of staying until the security guards come to usher him/her from the room. The intent is to be kind,but firm and to avoid making a scene out of the situation. A similar process is followed when tangent conversations persist. It has worked, so far. The students seem to accept, if not appreciate the boundaries. The classroom for today, feels like a sanctuary. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
It is my hunch that some of the readers do not appreciate my strategy or they may have an approach that works better for them. Share it. How do you handle the issue of cell phones and discipline in your classroom?