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High School Banned Phones in the Classroom, Kids Actually Liked It – Business Insider

Teachers want what’s best for their students. As such, over the past two decades, educators have spent so much time thinking about how to help kids manage their cellphone use in school. From incorporating them into lessons like any other helpful tech device to stapling them inside brown paper bags when they’re misused to doling out points based on a student’s ability to keep their phones locked during class time, trust me, teachers have tried just about everything to help young people create healthy boundaries with their phones.
And yet, despite these best efforts, teachers widely report that off-task student cellphone use remains a daily frustration, especially in buildings where there is no school-wide policy.
So, as one of these teachers, when I got the summer email from administrators announcing that — like 77% of other US schools, according to a 2020 National Center for Education Statistics report — our high school would implement a no-cell-phones-in-the-classroom policy starting in the fall, I was both nervous and relieved.
Nervous because a lot has happened since that 2020 report. During the pandemic, phones went from being largely off-limits in the classroom to being essential modes of staying connected. This was a major cultural shift.
Since then, I’ve watched my students become increasingly reliant on their phones, not just to stay connected academically and socially but also to fill the smallest moments of pause, boredom, or challenge in class, regardless of the myriad ways my colleagues and I construct lessons to keep them engaged. I knew we’d receive pushback from students and their parents, some of whom would undoubtedly experience the policy as one that impinged on their personal freedoms and might cause a kind of separation anxiety.
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But I also felt relieved because something needed to be done. Forget the need to pay attention during a grammar lesson. I’m talking about times when a student’s best friend would be sitting right next to them, wanting to spill the tea about Taylor Swift or Lebron James’ sons, and still whatever was on that student’s phone was more interesting or more consistent at delivering an endorphin rush, or was simply less socially demanding. 
Our school’s response was this policy: upon entering a classroom, students place their cell phones in numbered caddies, where they leave them until the end of class. If a student doesn’t do this and refuses to after being asked, the teacher doesn’t take their phone — avoiding that liability — but instead alerts admin, who then collects the phone, keeps it for the rest of the day, and — for repeat offenders — involves parents.
The key component, both our administrators and teachers kept highlighting, was that this was a school-wide policy: every adult in the building would handle phones in the same way, and every student in the building would know what was expected of them. We would be united. Not against cellphones, but for a type of learning environment with fewer distractions and, therefore, more opportunities to discover what can happen in a classroom when moments of pause are expected and viewed as chances to connect with the living, breathing people next to you, or — wait for it — to think for yourself.
What has happened since has been positive in almost every way. There were some loud groans from seniors and hardly any pushback from freshmen. After one month of the policy, I asked my students to reflect on it, and their overwhelming responses went something like this:
Look, I know these kinds of policies don’t work in every school. For some, there’s not enough teacher buy-in or consistent admin support. For some, they’re a liability issue. For some, the parent pushback is fierce. For some, it’s philosophical.  All I can tell you is that, this year, so far, it’s not just the teachers who are relieved. Students are too. And it’s my belief that a little relief from the demands of our hyper-connected world is something we, as adults, should offer our kids while we can.
Emily Brisse’s writing has been published widely, including in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Creative Nonfiction’s True Story, The Sun, and Parents. Connect with her on Instagram at @emilybrisse.
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