Phones and iPods In Schools

Without sounding like a cranky 80 year old, when *I* was in school, there was no such thing as a mobile phone! Yes, yes, back in the day when we walked to school, uphill both ways. In the snow. Barefoot.

Ok, the walking to school uphill in the snow part is crap, but there was no such thing as a mobile phone, iPods, Facebook and all the rest of today’s modern technology. I realise that society has to “move with the times” but I was recently shocked to learn that a friend’s son, who just started high school, was being distracted in class by several students listening to music on their phones/mp3 players during class time. The only thing more shocking was the Principal and Vice Principals reaction to my friend’s complaint.

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She was essentially told that school isn’t about education, it’s about learning to multi-task, learning to focus when there are distractions, learning to communicate and work through problems (hence all the in-class discussion). She was also told that children go home and do their homework with music in the background, so they are allowed to have the music in class, also. She was told that the kids use their phones as calculators, that parents do not like to buy their kids calculators because they have them on their phone. She was told that we are in 2013, and as such, she needed to “move with the times.”

Now, I’m not suggesting we should be back in the dark ages where kids got the cane for not sitting in their designated seat (true story – ask my mum!). I’m not even saying these items should be banned completely from school. I know iPads can be great for learning. I know that kids need to learn how to use social media, the benefits and the dangers of it and the social responsibility that comes with being so connected by it. But I think to allow them to listen to music during class time, to distract other kids who may not yet have the capability of focusing through such distractions, and to be able to be that disconnected from the teacher and classmates is quite frankly just taking the piss.

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To get some kind of perspective on this issue, my friend called two other local schools – one public, one private. Neither school allowed kids to have their phones in class for music or any other such purpose. The private school rules were they were to be kept in lockers. The public school allowed them in their bags, on silent, for emergencies only. Maybe I am old fashioned. Maybe I am over reacting, but I’ll be marking this on my list of things to enquire about when sending Nick to high school (even though that’s almost 8 years away – God by then they might not be going to school, maybe it will all be online?!?!).

And while I’m speaking of school, I’ll take a bit of a detour here to tell you what I found in Nick’s classroom today. The school has a fairly thorough discipline policy/procedure. So at the front of the classroom is a hanging sign that looks something like this:

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All the kids names are on a clothes peg, and are pegged onto the appropriate….level? I scanned for Nick’s name and there it was. Attached to the “Warning” sign.  As we left school, he told me it was because he broke a pencil. It’s unclear as to how he broke it, as he told me a couple of different stories. He told me it was an “accident” but he’s certainly been pushing the boundaries at home recently, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s now trying to see how far he can push at school.

I sat through the rest of the parent/teacher meeting (not one-on-one, it was a group meeting) barely paying attention, because I was trying to think how I could approach this, with both Nick and the teacher. As a parent who stressed out over sending her son to school in the first place, today has done absolutely nothing for settling my concerns. Maybe he isn’t ready? Maybe he’s too young? Maybe it’s too much for him? Where did I go wrong? We’ve always tried to be stern/firm with him when it comes to discipline, but here he is, acting out? Or is the teacher picking on him? Does she already think he’s the problem child so that’s the label he’ll get for the whole year? All these questions and doubts swirling through my head are enough to drive me insane.

So my questions to you this week – what do you think about kids having phones in schools? And how do you think I should approach both Nick and his teacher about this discipline chart? Am I over reacting? 

And of course I’m linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT because you guys give the best advice around!

Dear Nicklas: My School Boy

Dear Nicklas,

I honestly thought the next letter I wrote to you that had life-changing details in it would be about you becoming a big brother. I was wrong. The next life-changing letter I get to write to you is all about you starting “big school.”

Being born on the cut off date for school, we had decided we would hold you back a year. So it came as a surprise to even us, when just a couple of weeks before school finished, we changed our minds. You and I went to visit the school up the roadand you instantly loved it and declared it “The best school EVER!” (because of the 3 playgrounds, undoubtedly).

You were so excited at the idea of going to “prep school” (as you call it) with Joshy and Noah that I couldn’t possibly consider holding you back. So the next day we signed you up, got your books and your uniform and it was just that easy. Now we are just a week away from your first day, and I have all kinds of mixed emotions about it. You were beyond excited, and in the last week of kindy, when I’d tell you it’s time to get ready for school you’d say, “Am I going to big school today!?!?” with such hope in your voice that it breaks my heart to tell you, “No, kindy.”

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To be honest, I don’t remember my first day of school. I’m sure my mum and I both cried. I’m sure I will cry on your first day, but hopefully not in front of you. I’ll try to hold it together until I get in the car. You absolutely thrived when we switched your kindy, so I am hoping you make the transition to school just as well.

Yesterday was your first day at big school and you handled it SO well. You went running ahead of your dad and I to get in the gate, and headed straight for the playground! We took you into class and got you settled, and then made a rookie mistake. We hung around for too long! You were fine for the first 20 minutes, and not knowing what to do, we followed other parents cues and waited. What were we waiting for? I guess a push from the teacher to leave. By the time we did leave you were starting to get a bit upset. Thankfully the teacher intervened and we left before I could burst into tears, too. By the time I picked you up you were happy again, and had had a great day! You went to the library, the tuckshop and watched a movie about buckets (???).  You said you met new boys but you didn’t remember their names.

This morning, your second morning, you went running in ahead, again headed for the playground. I think your main concern about school is how much playground time you’re going to get! This time I gave you a hug and a kiss outside your room and you walked in all by yourself, not a tear in sight. Either you really are a big boy now, or the promise of ice cream after school helped!

I guess I was nervous for you, because this isn’t just the first week of prep. It’s the first week of a very long school career. Thirteen years, all going to plan! It is more than just going to school. It is a symbol of growing up, of being a boy, not a baby, it’s the first day of 13 years of home work, school excursions, making friends, learning to respect and get along with teachers, learning to love learning…it’s the day you stand on the door step of Education and say, “My name is Nicklas. Teach me!”

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There will be hard times – making friends/maintaining friendships, keeping up with work, learning new and challenging subjects. There will be fun times – sports carnivals, field trips, lunch time, projects. There may be times you’ll hate school, but I hope that these are few and far between. You may have to deal with bullies, cool kids, cliques.  You may fit in somewhere right away, you may struggle to find your place in the playground hierarchy.

Through it all, your dad and I promise to be present, attentive parents. To support you and encourage you through the highs and the lows of school. To expect only that you do all that you can. As long as you try your hardest, it doesn’t matter what the results are. You are such a kind, funny, caring, cheeky little boy, and I hope that you spread your wings and fly at big school.

As always, I love you with everything I am.
Love, Mum