Sunday, October 19, 2008

Week 9: October 20-24, 2008

Upcoming Events:
Oct 20 -- Staff Pizza Party 7th hour in room 103
Oct 22 -- BAR Team meets @ 7:00 in room 103
Oct 22 -- FMP trash clean-up during 5th hour
Oct 23 -- 1st Quarter Grades Open
Staff meeting with Superintendent @ 2:45 in Room A115/116
Oct 24 -- ALL STAFF BAR data collection starts (continued to 10/27 only)

I am not sure I have ever started a week thinking it will be a good week to get a lot accomplished, and ended a week knowing what it felt like to get run over by a steam roller! This was one of those weeks!

It started so nicely with a pizza order. Lunch for the staff for an excellent data walkthrough. Carbs for the team to get them prepared for the long run ahead. Junk food for my friends for holding hands with us during the tough times. And happened. Ironically, it all started with a cell phone call from Jake Kelly. He called with problems in his classroom. I was perplexed that he called my cell phone from his cell phone. As a former English teacher, if I was teaching this "novel" event, it would reek of foreshadowing.

Funny thing about text messages, unlike a cell phone call, you can't really refuse one. Hence the problems that occurred this week in Mr. Kelly's class. Cyberthreats heavily slipped through Benton's cyberspace. Students and parents alike feared for school safety. Late nights with parents resulted in validating our school security yet meting out heavy consequences to the students involved. In a day and age where we measure a school's success by the students who make it to school and through school, we lost that battle even as we carried home a banner of victory for safe schools.

All while this drama played out, another storyline and character emerged. Phone usage at Benton was more and more often being seen by students as an entitlement. Refusal to turn over a cell phone and subsequent disorderly conduct in the refusal has more than once ended a student's school day with handcuffs. I cry every time a student leaves our building that way. Students in various venues were abusing our very forward thinking policy which allowed cell phone use at any time instructional programs were not being offered at Benton. After too much instructional time was lost to students refusing to comply with the policy, a new approach was taken -- inform the students clearly as to the continued policy and established steps to resolve the conflict. The process was simple. Create a plan. Run it past the instructional staff. Run it past a student group. Inform parents. Wait and see.

The plan starts tomorrow (Monday). We lost at least five students and numerous instructional days last week to cell phones. I pray we do not lose any next week. I've heard rumors the students will resist. I wonder if they realize we are trying to be advanced; their resistance could possibly send us flying backwards.

After talking with Mikey tonight, I began to reflect on cell phone usage. Mike told me that text messages drop the walls of a classroom (isn't that what we hope to do with School 2.0?). If a student was talking in class, he would be told to stop. Text messaging should be the same. If a student doesn't stop, then he gets in trouble. Text messaging should be the same. You could move the student away from his conversation partner. You could remove the phone away from the student.

He also brought up another interesting point. If a student got out a book after instruction (and homework completed), no teacher would complain. Why is reading a phone so much worse? (I gave several reasons, but we weren't really talking about that). If a student got out a computer and did the same thing Mike would do on his cell phone, the student would not get into trouble. I am not sure I fully agree with Mike, but he did make me think. Does it make you think?

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