Why I collect cell phones

Why I Collect Cell Phones in My Classroom

Today I would like to talk about why I collect cell phones in my classroom. It’s a topic that almost every high school teacher has discussed with colleagues, I would bet, and one that that invokes strong opinions for both pro and con. Last year, in the 2022,2023 school year, I made the decision to collect phones, and I will never go back!

Why I Collect Cell Phones: Reason 1

This is not the most important reason, but I’m going to go in order of how my classes run. We are required by district to have a “Do Now” activity. While students are working on this quick warm up, I walk around and collect phones. This every day practice is a routine that my students can count on. It sets the tone for how I want my students to show up for my class: engaged and ready to learn!

The added bonus: while I walk around to collect phones, I can have quick chats. “Jenny, I noticed you were absent yesterday. Is everything ok? Brandon, you look a little pale. Are you feeling ok? Tristan, don’t forget that you’re coming during study hall today to make up your quiz!”

Why I Collect Cell Phones: Reason 2

I’m not going to lie. The night before the first day of school, I still hadn’t decided if I wanted to do this! I was terrified! My fears included a) what if they hate me on day one? b) what if they refuse to put their phone in my caddy? c) what if I’m the only teacher enforcing our cell phone policy?

I took a leap and decided to do it!

And I have never regretted it for a single second! I NEVER have to stop teaching to address students using their phone without permission. I NEVER need to worry about them using phones to cheat. I NEVER have to get into a power struggle in front of other students about turning over their phone. And perhaps best of all, I NEVER have to go up and down 3 flights of stairs to turn in phones to assistant principals if they have been taken away. (I still wear high heels!)

What About……

A lot of my colleagues have expressed reasons why they do not collect phones. Here are some concerns and my solutions.

-I don’t want to be responsible for the phones:

I have a wooden caddy. Students place their own phones in the slots, so they can’t slam together. The caddy sits in plain view of everyone on my front table.

-What if one student steals another’s phone?

I might be fortunate, but in my classes, it’s rare that students don’t have their own phones. No one has ever lost their phone with my system, and no student has ever tried to steal another student’s phone.

-What if a student needs their phone?

Sometimes I let students use their phones when they let me know something important is going on. (They would be distracted anyway if they were waiting for a message about their dad’s heart surgery.) I sometimes let them use it when they forgot their computer. I decide if they can have them to listen to music during independent work. And ….. and I believe this is what gives me the most success…… I let them take their phones if they leave the room. Fire drills, bathroom, trip to the nurse… they can bring their phone. If they don’t take advantage of their time out of the room, all is good!

-But I am not allowed to require that my students turn in their phones!

Me neither! On day one, I explain why I collect the phones. I explain why it benefits them. I tell them I follow rules and I will write referrals. I ask them to try it for a day. (On day 1, everyone puts their phone in the caddy.) Then I collect every day and just kind of pretend that it’s not optional. After a week, it’s just the routine!

Results From Collecting Cell Phones

Easy. More learning. More engagement. Better teacher-student relationships. Better student-student relationships. Less referrals. Less frustration. Less distractions. Less friction! Try it and let me know how it goes!!


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Why I collect cell phones