Welcome back to the 18-19 school year…and a reminder about cell phones.

Good morning, Parents.

You may remember that last spring, we began sharing our plans to not allow cell phones in classrooms this school year.  Our policy has always said that cell phones need to be in lockers during class time, but we had gotten lax with the execution of that policy.  We also explained that our motivation to keep cell phones out of our classrooms was to protect the focus, attention, and engagement of students, which are all clearly distracted by their presence.  Simply put, cell phones in classrooms have a negative effect on learning, so we feel the need to address this reality by completely eliminating them from that setting.

Parent responses to those messages were supportive at a rate of 20+/1.  It seems pretty apparent that nearly everyone understands what a powerful distraction and addictive effect cell phones can have on our attention and focus.  Of course, when we start implementing this rule, and taking phones away, that is the point where we will very likely get some push back.

I shared an article with the HS faculty this summer about Portage High School’s positive experience with banning cell phones from their classrooms last year, and I thought parents may enjoy a few quotes and ideas from this article as well.

“Portage High School’s ban on cellphones in classrooms is bearing fruit and inspired more than a dozen inquiries from administrators across the US.”

“Principal Robin Kvalo said, ‘Quite frankly, it is one of the best policies we’ve ever implemented.”

Portage HS has 830 students, and last year they confiscated 211 phones from students.  142 of those students were one time offenders who simply forgot to leave their phones in their lockers…a problem that clearly decreased as the school year progressed and students got used to the new expectations.  48 students had their phones taken twice, and 12 students had their phones taken 3 or more times.

At this point it is our plan at OHS to have teachers take away phones if they see them in a students’ possession in their classroom.  The teacher will keep the phone until the end of the day when the student can pick it up.  If a teacher observes a student using their phone during class and is clearly inattentive as a result, the teacher will take the phone and give it to me and I will keep it overnight—just as we have done the last few years.  I return the phone to the student at the end of the next day of school if they have served the associated detention(s).  A student who refuses to give the teacher or me their phone is not allowed to stay at school, and when they wish to return, they must give us their phone immediately upon their return and it is usually confiscated for two nights because of their refusal to comply as expected.

The article about Portage HS goes on to say that a recent graduate described the policy as ‘very difficult’ for her and her peers, at least at first, primarily because students are so attached to their phones.  But as her senior year went on, she could clearly see the positive side of the rule.  She also shared that it became easier to focus on things that needed to get done.  It did make it easier to focus on school and become more productive in class.

Principal Kvalo admitted that most students, if polled, would prefer to have their phones and that there would be “loud cheers” if the policy ever got scrapped.  But that is okay because we know when we are on our phones, we tune out what is going on around us, and we want students tuned in.

Kvalo also shared that she also put her own phone away, and insisted that teachers do so as well.  She said she found it very freeing, and I have had teachers tell me they also feel better without their phones.  Not a single teacher told me this is not a good policy.

If you have any questions about these changes, please give me a call at (920) 546-2346 x 4001.

We look forward to seeing your children next Tuesday.

Scott