As the high school principal, I feel personally responsible for everything that happens in our building. Everything. So what to do, and I KNOW every principal will relate to this post, when teachers have complaints about school rules?
Let’s use cell phones and MP3 players for an example. (And readers who spend their days in G-Town with me, I’m calling you out–post a comment, tell me what you think.) What should the school rules be in regard to these devices?
A brief history lesson first. When I arrived at G-Town, they were not allowed in school. If you had one, it was taken away and your parent called to pick it up, including school consequences. If you had one stolen, well, you shouldn’t have had it in school in the first place. ANY adult who thinks kids didn’t still have cell phones/MP3 players on their person is in serious denial. Last year, we purchased locks for every locker, told students we have things stolen way too often, insisted they lock their lockers and keep valuables inside. MANY students refused to use the lock (takes too long), items were stolen, same old story. This year, we say students can have phones on their person but may not use them during the school day. MP3 players may be used in the hallways and in study hall. Also, some teachers allow them as students work on art projects or on the computer.
One important thing to consider. Nothing gets teachers hotter faster than the idea of CONSISTENCY. If we have a school rule, everyone needs to enforce it in the same way for all kids. NEVER HAPPENS in my seventeen years, teachers have different tolerance levels for all kinds of behavior. And I know it’s my responsibility to ensure teacher accountability, as a principal I’ve proven I’m not afraid to address personnel issues. I’m also not going to damage a relationship with one of my teachers by taking a disciplinary approach to lack of enforcement of the “cell phone” rule.
Back to my question. A couple of teachers feel that allowing students to carry cell phones and MP3 players is a distraction. They say it’s a hassle to ask kids to remove them when they enter the room, that they always have to ask students to put them away. These are two teachers who I really respect, I listen to them. They are not chronic complainers.
What possible solution is there? Seriously. What options do we have? (And if you follow the news, little lockers built outside of the building isn’t ever happening while I’m here.)A school wide ban on these items? PLEASE (note: sarcasm). A school wide ban isn’t going to stop any kid from bringing these items to school. What are we looking for here? Should we dump progressive discipline and give our most serious consequences for this “offense”?
Let me pretend I’m still a teacher, as it hasn’t been that long–seven years. If it’s my classroom in our school and the rule is no devices out in class–why will I have any trouble enforcing this rule? It’s a simple, no big deal issue for me–just like tardy to class or late homework.
Here’s MY #1 Teacher Rule—do what I ask you to do when I ask you to do it. Reductive consequences–#1 Verbal warning; #2 Phone Call Home; #3 Let’s do lunch, today, my room; #4 You get to stay after with me :-); #5 Referral to the office and so on. Clearly articulated rules consistently applied, by ME. I didn’t make a big deal about it, I tracked it on my homework sheets, no arguments. Almost never got past rule #3. Simple. I should also throw in there that I genuinely respected and cared about my students, including expecting the best from them every day.
I didn’t need a school rule or procedure to say “it’s not ME, it’s the Principal’s Rule”. PLEASE. As the teacher, keep the authority, it will serve you well.