Teachers curb cell phone usage

In the past twenty years, high school classrooms haven’t changed all that much. There’s still the cheap plastic and metal desks arranged in rows, the painted brick walls covered with posters and bulletin boards, and the squeaky linoleum floors. The most noticeable change? Technology.

Students today type assignments on computers, take notes off of Promethean Boards, and distract themselves with their cell phones. With today’s constant notifications and spam calls, it’s become harder to put down the phone for hour-and-a-half class periods.

Grady teachers have come up with many ways to solve excessive cell phone usage by students, but the most popular method is making students put their phones away in numbered pockets.

“When my students first enter the classroom, I have them put their cellphones in the chart,” Alex Wallace, ninth and tenth-grade literature and composition teacher, said. “Then, they can retrieve them as needed throughout the class or at the end of the period.”

At the start of the year, teachers assign students specific numbered pockets to put their cell phones in. When looking at the numbers, teachers can tell who still has their phones, and ask the offenders to place their device in the organizer. Wallace decided to use this method after his management technique failed towards the end of last 2018-2019 school year.

“Last year was my first year teaching at Grady, and I just had a conversation with my students at the start of the year, like ‘Hey guys! It’s my expectation that you don’t use your cell phones or have it out’,” Wallace said. “That worked for the most part, but after the [Georgia] Milestones testing, kids were on their cell phones a lot. I didn’t have a big problem with it, but this year, I don’t want to have any problems.”

Since the start of the 2019-2020 school year, this approach has been more widespread than any previous school year. According to many students, including sophomore Jack Kast, the pocket approach seems reasonable.

“I think the pockets are totally appropriate because phones are such large distractions in the classroom,” Kast said. “We are here to learn, and when it comes to taking AP and honors classes, you really need to pay attention. Generally, they’re a good thing.”

Kast also suggests that any cell phone confiscation will be more attractive to students if they are allowed to charge their phone while it is taken.

“If I was a teacher, I would have a place for students to put away and charge their phones,” Kast said. “That also incentivizes them to not use them while they’re charging.”

Other students, like freshman Olivia Morton, feel the policy is too harsh and overbearing.

“Some of my teachers have little pockets that you put your phone in,” said Morton. “They’re sort of weird and controlling.”

But it seems no matter how you do it, these solutions will always be more attractive to educators than to students. So at Grady, teachers stick to the basic, tried-and-true, $14 blue cell phone pockets. And they seem to be working.

“I haven’t gotten any negative feedback, and I think it was all through my approach,” Wallace said. “They know I care about them as individuals, and they know that I’m just trying the pockets out this year.”

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