Thursday, October 23, 2008

School Rules

Last week I posted a discussion based around a question I'd been asked by a student: Ask Twitter: Mobile phones in education. I found the discussion both helpful and interesting. I was even vaguely hopeful about the possibilities for educational uses of mobile phones in school.

However a discussion this week with students brought me back to earth with a bump! We were talking about classroom management and the importance of establishing rules, so we talked about how well different rules had been enforced in their placement schools. It was not uncommon (in fact more or less universal) to have a no phone rule. However, one girl said that if a child was caught with a mobile phone, they were to be sent straight to the head teacher... will I say that again? To the head teacher... straight away... no messing about with warnings etc. (And I think I heard her right - it was just "caught with" not necessarily "using".)

Oh dear!

I understand that mobiles can be disruptive. I understand that they can be used for particularly nasty forms of bullying. I understand that there can be child protection issues. But is this really an appropriate or proportionate response? As a pupil I used to have a tin pencil box (from Helix) in my bag with various maths tools in it, including a set of compasses... With a very sharp point... A very dangerous sharp point... Significantly more dangerous (I would argue) than a mobile phone. I guess now, children are not allowed such dangerous objects but if a pupil was found to be carrying one, would he or she be sent to the head teacher? I suspect not.

I wonder what other offences result in you being sent straight to the head teacher? If you are caught with a knife, a gun, a weapon of mass destruction... or a mobile phone?


Chris said...

It seems to me that there is a trend for schools to state explicitly rules to cover every possible eventuality, leaving no areas for the individual teacher to be ... well, individual. I can see that such a set-up acts as a comfort blanket and provides a stable society as pupils move from one teacher to the next, but when I was in my classroom I tended to exercise my own autonomous regime which my pupils understood worked to their benefit as well as mine.

Had I been subject from my first years in teaching (Woodside Secondary, Glasgow, BTW) to such a catch-all regime, I doubt I would ever have developed the class discipline that made my job - even in my declining years - fun for me and for my classes.

And yes, I was a creatively dissident pupil in my day ...

Colin Schafer..... said...

Straight to the head sounds a bit OTT. But some education authorites are so paranoid about mobile phones that they dictate to *all* their schools what the policy should be so the school doesn't even have a finger's width of discretion. In theory. In practice, in rural areas with much bussing of children to and from school, not to mention ferrying (by boat not parental car), the idea that you should deprive children of even the possibility of use of a mobile is just stupid (and possibly more dangerous in other ways than allowing them to carry mobiles around school).

**Sorry, the only I could find to edit this was to delete and repost**

David said...

Hello Chris

"Creatively dissident"? I bet you were! One of the classroom management texts we use with our students says, "The creative mind continually seeks diversion".

Hello Colin

More than a little OTT I'd say. But I think you are right about the fear and paranoia aspect. As Ian said in a Twitter reply: "islayian @DavidDMuir Its all FUD Fear Uncertainty and Doubt."

mlmiller1 said...

I think that there are more dangerous things in schools than cell phones. I also think that cell phones are very distracting and are also ways for students to cheat in class. I am in college, and cheating is the number one reason why cell phones are not allowed in class. Even thought i may be extreme to take the student right away to the head teacher, something needs to be done.

Colin Schafer..... said...

If/when mobile phones are used for cheating then the sanctions should be those for "cheating", rather than "possession of a mobile phone"! I have no problem with rules proscribing mobiles being used (or even out of bags) in lessons; it's the blanket "no mobiles in school, not now, not ever" type of rule I object to. For one thing, it's unenforceable.....