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Career Questions: Cellphones for Teachers

Q:  In my middle school/high school, kids aren’t allowed to use cell phones during the day (although we all know they do).  To “set a good example,” our principal has decided that teachers shouldn’t use them either. 

Frankly, most of us consider this a ridiculous ruling.  Phones are available for teacher use in the faculty room or the office, but it’s much more convenient to call a parent, for example, on a cell phone from your own classroom.  And I’ll admit that it’s also more convenient to make appointments or take care of all the other business everyone has to contend with.  How can I convince my principal to move into the age of technology?

A:  You might refer your principal to a survey done by the Pew Research Center last spring.  The survey found that 75% of kids age 12-17 own cell phones.  Twenty-four percent say their schools ban cell phones, but 65% bring them to school anyway and 58% admit to texting in class!  (Nothing's really changed in that department since the 60's -- see below).

I can understand your principal’s concern about teachers and cell phones.  He or she doesn’t want a teacher taking or making calls during class or during any duty period.  While there’s a difference between adults and kids, both have to know when cell phone use is appropriate. 

If your school has a faculty council, cell phone use for teachers (and kids) should be a topic for discussion.  My belief is that even more teachers than kids have cell phones and many teachers will use them anyway if their classroom is empty.  It’s all about discretion and good judgment (maybe you don’t have to wear your cell phone on your belt, for example).  The principal may have made a unilateral ruling, but it will be difficult to enforce either for adults or kids.  


Our district also has this policy-- I teach elementary school and we have been told not to use our cell phone during the day--- I have also been told that if there is a problem and I can't find someone to cover my classroom to use my cell phone. I refuse to use my cell phone--- I do not want parents having my cell phone number and calling me on my FAMILY TIME. This is also biting the district-- because we have 50 + teachers at our school and 5 phones that we can use-- In case of an emergency, what are we going to do?

First of all, I agree with your not wanting parents to have your cellphone number. I always tell teachers, especially new teachers, that giving out your cell phone number may seem like a good idea at the time, but it will blur the line between your professional time and your private time -- not a good idea!
It would be great if a few of you could revisit the cell phone topic with your principal. Professional educators should be trusted to use their phones judiciously like adults in other professions. Eventually your district will come to this conclusion, but the sooner the better!

What if my device also allows me to take attendance, grade, and Google a student's question. Is it still considered a cell phone, or is it now a computer?

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.