Monday, February 19, 2007
Schools need rules. I am a big believer in them. I believe rules should be enforced and there should be consequences when they are not followed. NYC has a rule that cell phones are not allowed in the building. I don't necessarily agree with the rule, but then again, I am only a lowly teacher, so what do I know? If my chairman or the principal happens to walk by my room and notices a cell phone on a desk, they get all out of shape. And there are consequences. Unfortunately, the consequences are only for the teacher who did not do anything about the phone. Now, what is a teacher to do? A colleague of mine regularly calls homes when she sees these devices out. She is now being brought up on charges of abusing a poor kid whose home she called. The parent claims she was picking on him. Another teacher confiscated a cell phone. The kid promptly walked out of the room and into the Principal's office. Suit walked the kid back to class and had the teacher return the phone. I personally have called the deans to take phones away when the kids won't put them away only to see the kids and phones back in class the next day.
Last Wednesday, all the trailer classes plus all the classes of absentee teachers were in the auditorium. It was bedlam. I gave my kids a worksheet, with answers on the back, and walked around helping as best as I could. At first I made them put every cell phone away. That is, until I noticed the other couple of hundred kids sitting with cell phones and no one bothering to tell them to put them away. Security guards and deans stood at the back of the auditorium, never bothering to walk around and see what was going on. It would have been easy to have a massive sweep and collect all these phones.
Now, in reality, I don't believe the kids were doing anything wrong. What is wrong is a rule that is only enforced sometimes, when it is convenient for the administration. Since my school is so large, and it is impossible to enforce the cell phone ban as it is written, the rule needs to be changed.
Last year I taught a difficult class of repeaters. I knew I would be fighting with them constantly if I enforced the hat rule, i-pod rule and all the other stupid rules that have nothing to do with education. But, I needed rules so I came up with ones that I could enforce. The first one was that hats were allowed as long as they quickly came off if the door opened. We had a signal. Once the outsider left, I would signal again, and the hats could go back on. I-pods could be listened to when the kids were working on practice sheets, not during the lesson. The same rule for outsiders applied. I told Principal Suit about my rules. I was afraid he would discover them on his own. He said if he came in the room, he would pretend to be blind. He was happy that these kids were coming to class and going to pass. They were the ones that could make him look bad by not graduating.
I never give my kids long lists of rules and regulations. My rules are simple. Come to class on time. Do your work and homework. Don't talk unless answering or asking a question. Go to tutoring if you need help. Pass exams and you will pass the class. I make the rules that can be enforced.