“Atholton High School, we have a problem,” said Atholton’s Principal Mr. Motley. Once students returned to the building, one thing was clear. Phones were a distraction more than ever. Instead of focusing on the lesson, students had their heads down staring at a screen. In order to fix this, an important decision was made.
Atholton High School implemented a new cell phone policy on Monday, November 8 in order to limit distractions in school. According to Mr. Motley, phone use in classrooms has been a “constant complaint from the staff since we’ve returned to school.” When students were learning virtually from home, cell phones were the norm, with students messaging each other and looking at social media during lessons. After talking to students at Atholton, Mr. Motley estimated about 90% of them admitted to this. Since returning to the building, that norm is no longer tolerated by teachers and administrators.
To combat this, the administration purchased phone caddies for every classroom and is requiring phones to either be put in backpacks or the caddy. “We’re not gonna argue if you don’t use the caddy. What we will argue is if the phone is out if it shouldn’t be,” said Mr. Motley.
With the pandemic currently going on, sanitation may be a concern for some students. “Your phone is your most commonly touched surface by you and you only. So I guess you’re touching other stuff and then touching your phone, and then you have someone else who’s touching everything else and they come and accidentally touch your phone…it’s just more germs on your phone which I think is kind of gross,” said a junior at Atholton. The caddies will be cleaned on a weekly basis, and wipes will be provided should students need or want them.
However, students are not required to put their phones in the caddy. According to Mr. Motley, the caddies are “merely a visible way for us [staff] to see that the phone is put away.” So if a student doesn’t want to put their phone in the caddy, they don’t have to. The only exception is if the teacher asks the student to put the phone away, then the student must comply or go to the office.
Teachers seem to be in support of the new policy, including Spanish teacher Mrs. Coates. She confirmed that in her classroom cell phone use had increased since the return to in person school. The caddies serve as a warning to students to keep their phones away unless they want to face the consequences. In her classroom, Mrs. Coates said that the caddy “drives home the point that it’s the wrong time to use it.”
Additionally, Ms. Klotz, a science teacher at Atholton, said “the distraction of technology when not part of the lesson is one of the number one factors of poor performance, poor attitude, and ability to concentrate, so I completely support it [the new policy.]”
Another impact of the policy that has been noticed by Ms. Klotz is the reduction of cell phone use not only in the classroom but in the hallways. “Now they’re [students] walking through the halls looking around, and they’re greeting each other, they’re greeting me, they’re looking at signs, they’re just reflecting. I see them look out the window. I noticed that difference with the cell phone policy. I think now many students are putting their phones away and just going about their day,” explained Ms. Klotz.
Ms. Klotz noted that after asking her students how they felt about the policy that “a lot of the students (9th grade Bio GT students) have said that they’re able to concentrate and focus and they feel better about themselves.”
The new Atholton cell phone policy has been effective in deterring students from using their phones in the classroom, therefore increasing student productivity. While cell phones are a useful classroom tool, they can also be a distraction, and hopefully this policy will fix this problem in the long run. As Ms. Klotz said, “you can’t have focus or appropriate attention if you’re staring at a screen when you’re not supposed to be.”