Dorothy van den Honert: Hang up the classroom cell phones

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PITTSFIELD >> Ed Udel, who was a teaching buddy of mine at Crosby years ago, wrote an April 12 op-ed article in The Eagle on the problems for teachers of today's plethora of cell phones in the classroom. The article was a doozy, and described a situation that didn't exist when I was there in the 1960s. I checked with a neighbor who has been a physics teacher for years and she confirmed every word!

One solution is to eliminate all hand-held devices in class, which was accomplished by one teacher I heard of who kept a large basket on her desk and required each student to drop his phone in it as he came in. My neighbor told me that some kids would bring in an old one, drop it in the basket, and use the one new one. In any case, if the kid uses a cell phone during class, there is something radically wrong with his parents.

Schools will keep a student after school for detention for texting in class, and if his mom has to leave work to get him home, she may — I say may — give him the business. But he may have a friend who drives. He will text his pals until he finds one. And he hasn't learned anything. Worse yet, neither have his parents.

The only thing I can think of that might help is to require a student to bring his cell phone. Of course, that takes the fun out of it.

All this is hard on the teacher because she has to plan her lessons to force the student to look up and write something about it in class. Or she could dictate a spelling lesson he was supposed to have studied at home. If he can't spell it, it takes too long to look it up on his cell phone. In any case, she must devise ways to keep the student busy with school work and keep an eagle eye on the class to see that nobody is talking to anybody else.

This solution is unfair because it puts the blame in the wrong place and the work to solve the problem on the wrong person. The bad actors in this scenario are the parents. If any of my five kids had taken a cell phone to school and used it when the teacher was talking, I would have strung him up by the ears.

I don't pay taxes for brats to waste my money, in school or anywhere else.

Parents drive school personnel crazy in other ways. They feel that if their kid forgot to tell Mom what kind of ice cream he wants at dinner, they can expect the school to find him and ask! No, I am not making this up.

I believe private schools are worse about this kind of thing than public ones because they don't want to annoy rich parents who might withdraw the tuition. One of my teacher friends taught in a private school for several years and had to fight with the office to give an earned B instead of an unearned B+ to a child. She never had any trouble giving out an honest grade in public schools.

A recent article in the New York Times complained about another dangerous misuse of cell phones, one which left me gasping. Apparently there are lots of people who talk on their phones while walking along the sidewalk and a few idiots who are still chatting happily as they cross the street! In New York City!

It reminds me of the wren who built a nest in a tree just outside my bedroom and laid three eggs in it. But the nest was slanted, and in due course, the eggs rolled out and smashed on the ground. At least, I said to myself, when Mama came back and found no kiddies left, at least there won't be three dumb little wrens to spoil evolution.

For all the good they do, there are laws to avoid stupid disasters. You may not carry an open bottle of alcohol in a moving car. The same thing should apply to cell phones, especially since the number of deaths from drunk driving are now the same as those from distracted cell phone drivers.

But would you believe that not only can you legally keep your cell phone conveniently located on the seat beside you, but car manufacturers put out new distractions on the dashboard of every new model? The only things I would like added to my elderly Prius is a windshield wiper on the back window and a camera.

I must admit that my nasty remarks about texting in class had no basis in my own teaching experience. Not that my students were Little Lord Fauntleroys. But they were dyslectic and couldn't spell.

Dorothy van den Honert is a regular Eagle contributor.


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