In accordance with the HPHS Student Handbook 22-23, endorsed by Principal Michael Lassiter, students are “required to place their cell phones in phone caddies in each classroom for the duration of the school year.” The idea thus far has been famously unpopular among high schoolers. However, teachers and the Board of Education seem to disagree with them. Regulating the use of the screens teens are so attached to is challenging, to say the least. But to subside the temptation, the administration has turned to removing the issue altogether. As stated in the student handbook, “The use of mobile phones by the student body is a privilege and may be denied at any time.”
Interestingly, teachers differ in how they enforce this policy. We interviewed four teachers on how they have implemented the policy in their classrooms and their opinions on this topic. One science teacher has imparted their rather unusual angle. “The policy can be placed—just need to give teachers discretion too.” This response correlates to the practices in their classroom. For example, there are no folders to collect students’ phones at the beginning of class, and phone use is permitted should a student finish their work early.
Physical education is perhaps the class most students use their phones in. We asked a gym teacher for their opinion on why this may be the case and if they enforce the school policy. “I enforce the cell phone policy to an extent, but I am more lenient, except when it interferes with learning, directions, and participation in my classes. When this happens, I request for students to put it away...I do not care if students use their phones for brief periods of time.”
For some teachers, the student’s use of their phone is distracting to them as well. A teacher from the English department shared their thoughts: “It distracts me, and whatever I'm trying to do as a teacher is diminished as a result.” Although this issue could be resolved by enforcing the intended policy, it currently is not. Similarly, the math teacher we spoke with does not enforce the phone collection policy except during exams. But they realize that phones are a “big problem. Especially with students who have focus issues in class.” The realization of this addiction is universal among all of the teachers we spoke with.
And the addiction is empathized with. As said by the English teacher, “It's not easy to resist the urge to use our cell phones—the apps we use and the content we scroll through is designed to keep us engaged. It's addictive. So I think it's a complex problem.” When asked if they believe the policy should be in place, they responded with “something needs to change, although I'm not sure what.” Moreover, there is one striking commonality between the teachers interviewed. All have admitted to using their phone during the school day and even during class. While the reasons vary, from “only during the downtime of the class,” “to communicate with admin,” or “for educational purposes (time keeping/photographing),” at the end of the day, is it not hypocritical to instill a policy that is not followed by everyone in the classroom? When pressed further on why, there was one clear consensus; it all boils down to respect. “They should not be on their phones once the teacher is speaking or when participating in class activities.”
These notions have been best worded by the English teacher: “There's something to be said for staying present and having a conversation. I think we're losing that these days, at least a little bit.” The chemistry teacher remarked, “If students are able to complete all work in class, then they can use their phones. But most of the time, if they are on their phone, they can't complete the work...etc. I can't compete with their social media, and I get blamed for students not doing well in my subject area.”