I mentioned in Friday’s post that I spent years being paralyzed over the question of collecting students’ cell phones at the beginning of class. Embarrassing, but true.

My breakthrough happened last summer, when I taught at an ESL school near my house.

New teachers all had to take a series of standardized exams that were given under strict testing conditions: no cell phones, no watches (no analog watches, even), no bathroom breaks in the last half hour.

So there I was, the person who had been longing to take cell phones away from students, suddenly having my own cell phone taken away.

It was a revelation.

I disliked handing over my cell phone–I disliked it just as much as I imagined my students would dislike it.

I found having my cell phone confiscated intrusive, annoying, and even somewhat insulting, given that the test we were taking wasn’t exactly the New York state bar exam (and wasn’t even a condition of our continued employment — if we failed, nothing happened).

But no-cell-phones was the rule, and I complied.

Overnight, my entire worldview changed.

It was simple: if I can have my cell phone taken away, I suddenly realized, my students can have their cell phones taken away. Nobody’s going to like it, but nobody’s going to care one way or the other 5 seconds after class is over, either.

And just like that, my mental block was gone.

And see:
Cell phone agonistes

One thought on “Breakthrough

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