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Chuck Brooks' column: The root of all high school evil?

I write this to you on the eve of yet another Winter Storm Warning. April 3. Of course, this is being read a week later, so whatever came of the “Warning,” it’s long gone by now. Or at least it better be.

I have wanted to write about this next topic for a long time now. I’ve mentioned it off and on in previous columns, but I’ve never given it the attention it deserves, or perhaps doesn’t deserve. I decided, though, to chat with you about the major arch nemesis of all teachers in this day and age. I imagine I’ll ruffle some feathers.

The cell phone.

It’s evil. I know it has saved lives. I know it has helped catch bad people doing bad things. I know it keeps us all in touch with loved ones.

It’s still evil.

To quote a line, “It is the bane of my existence.” You have no idea how many times in a day we, as teachers, have to combat this piece of technology. It competes every day with what we are trying to accomplish in our classroom. As a matter of fact, I just today had to tell a young lady who was supposed to be working on a practice MCA test in my room to put away the phone in her lap. How did I know it was there? I guess her head being down for an unusual length of time, chin touching her chest, her one hand in her lap … all of that shouldn’t have caught my attention?

It’s a battle I choose to fight. I have thrown the towel in on many battles in this job, but this is one I can’t turn my head to nor can I pass it off as “kids will be kids.” It’s a severe detriment to my goals for students.

Why is it some kids can handle the expectation of not bringing the blessed tool out of their pocket or backpack the entire time in class while others are simply compelled to challenge teachers by trying new ways to conceal its usage?

They’re used for cheating and other negative behaviors. We recently had a situation where a student took pictures of a test and passed the information on to those who hadn’t taken it yet. There was an incident of a student shooting a picture of a staff member and then attaching it to their Twitter account with demeaning and disrespectful remarks. Even parents will text their children during class. Seriously?

Once upon a time in this job, if parents truly needed to contact their son/daughter, they called the office and asked that a message be delivered to the student in the classroom. That worked just fine all those years. Now, however, the temptation is too great for the adolescent brain to fight the text. Students rarely ignore the text. Regardless of school policy. It’s a frustrating situation for the teacher. Can you tell?

When I stand in the hall during passing times, it’s an amazing sight. Students are walking past me, coming out of nearby classrooms, phones in hand. Socializing is minimal because they’re all catching up on what they might have missed in the last 50 minutes of their existence; I often wonder why more don’t fall flat on their face because they’re not watching where they’re walking.

It’s such a source of antagonism between the teacher and the student. Relationships are impacted because I ask students to simply put them away for the hour. For the student who can’t put it away for an entire class period, it ultimately impacts the learning relationship I have with them. Ultimately, they deceptively work diligently at keeping the phone out of sight while trying to use the phone during work time or my teaching time. I then hold them accountable for their decision, as the school says I should, and a wall is instantly created between that student and me, and the job of getting through to the student with information becomes more impossible than ever.

The cell phone.

It’s evil.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m got to answer this text.