I retired three years ago at the age of 53 and after 32 years of teaching, all in Frederick County Public Schools. I taught at the middle school level arts curriculum of chorus and theater. I loved my job and working directly with students engaging them in singing and performing. Through these arts they were able to connect face to face, develop lasting friendships, work toward a common goal and develop not only skills in the arts but also social skills. In my final years it became increasingly difficult to maintain student focus due to cellphones and the distractions they were to students. Our administration was inconsistent in handling the cellphone distractions and disruptions caused. Teachers felt unsupported when dealing with cellphone disruptions. Rules, consequences and expectations varied from teacher to teacher because some felt it wasn’t a battle worth fighting.
Our guidance staff spent a lot of time dealing with social media issues, bullying and inappropriate sexting that was happening at the middle school level. It is no wonder test scores have been declining and our students are lacking in face-to-face social engagement. Kids would stage fights in the restrooms and with their cellphones videotape and upload to social media. In our school system teachers are encouraged to “tweet” and post on social media and even at concerts and theatrical events administrators would sit in the back with cellphone in hand and tweet, then scroll through Facebook, check email and not focus on performances. I was witness to this when I was a teacher, but how does one address administrators in such a case and what kind of example are we setting with the “do as I say, not as I do” mindset. Even if you try to “harness the power” of cellphones, students don’t remain focused or engaged in the lesson — been there and done that! I believe a standard formal policy for cellphones in our schools should be set. I believe it should be consistent and should be practiced and enforced by school administration. Teachers have enough on their shoulders and the burden of dealing with cellphone issues in the classroom should not be on them.